Building a Service Catalog -- Let's Get Started!

Thought Leadership for
IT Service Management Professionals

Building a Service Catalog -- Let's Get Started!

Posted by Don Casson

Wed, Sep 06, 2017

Defining your start (tactical or strategic approach) is the fifth step to successful planning

Building a good, customer-centric service catalog takes preparation. If you attempt to build out your solution without proper planning, the odds are that you will end up with a purely tactical request catalog outcome that falls short of meeting customers’ expectations, and they simply won’t use it.

Before building anything out, your team needs clarification on the purpose of the project, governance and roles, language to be used, and the individual parts that make up a service catalog. These 4 steps need to be addressed and understood before you even get started on phase one buildout. Done properly, these 4 steps empower your team to draft a clear picture of the phase 1 functionality that will provide value to customers, providers and managers. 

The work in preparing your team for building a service catalog can seem hard, but it’s necessary. And, all the effort is worth it ahead of Step 5: Define your start. This part of the process is what IT does best. Here, phase 1 project activities are defined. This activity comes from, and builds on the ground work established in the first 4 steps. What’s more, after all the work is done, it is much easier to review and score technology choices and potential service providers for your planned project.  

Define Your Start.png

Tactical versus strategic

The word, “tactical,” is often perceived as bad for IT. But, when it comes to launching a project, a tactical approach when guided by experience can be a viable way to start. A tactical approach is useful for customers looking to improve or upgrade an existing portal. It also adds value to customers who want to create a new, simple portal (small, demo-like portal) to show what the future could look like and begin to handle customer interactions. In these examples, tactical works. While not everything is functional from the start, there must be enough value so that failure (when customers don’t see enough value or lack a good enough experience to warrant the use) is not an option.

A tactical approach works to ensure that your services catalog is:

  • Clean and simple
  • Sticky (well liked, needed and good)
  • Very easy to bail out and submit a general request/get help
  • A good place to quickly check status of any open requests – it must be better than just calling or sending an email to the service desk

A strategic approach, on the other hand, enables creation of a clear direction, consensus, business and economic underpinning, and executive understanding and support. And, most importantly, it educates the whole team on new concepts, best practices and definitions. 

The strategic approach lays the groundwork for customer-centric services. Specifically, a strategic approach:

  • Provides a clear plan plus education
  • Ties your efforts with strategic objectives
  • Puts your core team on the same page
  • Ensures executive communication and alignment
  • Creates opportunities for education
  • Establishes a common language

The strategic approach sounds more costly and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we prefer the strategic approach at Evergreen. About 80% of our customers start this way, and many of them have achieved their service catalog aims affordably and quickly through our 2 Week Service Catalog Strategy and Roadmap Engagement.

View PDF of our 2 Week Service Catalog Engagement


So, let’s recap on the 5 steps for preparing your team for building a service catalog:

  1. Get real clarity on why you are doing this
  2. Governance and roles / responsibilities are critical and different than what you are used to – for end to end customer service delivery
  3. A common language is the foundation of long term success
  4. Understanding the needed parts ensures you create a complete, sustainable service catalog for customers, providers and managers
  5. Knowing what you want and why is the only way to get exactly what you need

If you haven't already, I encourage you to check out the following blog posts. They are a great foundation for getting the whole view of what it takes to build an effective services catalog. And if you have any questions just let me know at

About the Author: Don Casson is CEO of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm helping medium to enterprise public and private sector organizations to dramatically transform their IT operations. Don is a frequent writer, blogger and presenter, and has delivered over 50 webinars on topics in Service Management, including IT and shared services


Topics: Service Now, ServiceNow, Service Catalog Consultant, ITIL Consulting, IT Service Catalog, IT Service Catalog Workshops, ITSM Strategy, Employee Self-Service Portal, ITIL Strategy, Customer-Centric IT, ServiceNow Partner, Customer-Centric ITSM, Service Portal, Service Catalog Planning


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