Planning a Service Catalog Project?  Ask These Questions to Succeed

Thought Leadership for
IT Service Management Professionals

Planning a Service Catalog Project?  Ask These Questions to Succeed

Posted by Don Casson

Wed, Aug 02, 2017

Framing your IT project with people, process, and technology (culture as well) in mind can help you avoid disaster

It occurred to me not too long ago that one of the most important lessons I learned took place in high school English class. The teacher highlighted the five Ws and one H questions: who, what, where, when, why, and of course, how. These questions are recognized as fundamental for information gathering and problem solving, especially in careers where research is essential, like journalism or police investigations.

Likewise, when planning your Service Catalog project, the right questions when considered against the framework used for key IT projects – people, process, technology…and culture – are critical to the success of your initiative.

IT project framework.png

Figure 1: Questions to answers aligned with key perspectives help to improve Service Catalog project success

Here’s a fact: IT projects fail sometimes. Indeed, project failure can occur 20 percent to 50 percent of the time according to some estimates. When it comes to Service Catalog projects, the high rate of failure is due to a lack of understanding of key elements relevant to your IT project: people, process and technology. And there’s one more I would like you to consider: culture.

Service Catalogs are built to help achieve business aims

Successful Service Catalog projects are dramatically different than many other IT projects. In fact, a Service Catalog implementation is really a business project because the tool is designed for business purposes: to increase user productivity through easier and faster access to technology.

Yes, there is a good chance that your project can fail. But, there’s hope with the five Ws and one H questions we should all ask at the outset of every project, not just an IT project. By asking the right questions from the start, you can help ensure a successful Service Catalog project.

Starting with the Ws and one H questions provide you with a path to building a working list of the key questions you need answers to, even beyond phase 1.


Here are four considerations as you plan your Service Catalog project:

1 - People make the world go ‘round

Here’s the first question you need to ask: who are you doing this for? The answer always is “the customer.” Whether a consumer of your product or service, or a business user, all roads lead to the customer. But there are other important people in the process as well – the stakeholders who are putting together the different elements of your Service Catalog. From this “people” perspective, here are examples of questions you should be asking at the outset of your Service Catalog initiative:

  • Who needs to be part of this?
  • Who are the early adopters and who are the late adopters?
  • How can the adopters help you?
  • What roles are needed, and who might best fill them?

Because all service catalogs involve all parts of IT, determining who should be involved is critical for a successful Service Catalog project. This enables IT to deliver an end-product that is aligned with customer needs. Getting all the people involved to agree is easier said than done. So, you need to be able to build consent and consensus from the various groups, and minimize silos through collaboration.

2 - Process really matters for customer-centric IT

In ITIL, process management is very important, but the goal of ITIL is to ensure that IT delivers and supports services. So, essentially in an environment where customers expect exceptional services, Service Owners play a critical role because they oversee, technically, what the customer seeks: end to end service. Today, a focus on delivering customer centric IT services is very different from how IT has traditionally operated. We discussed this in depth in a recent blog post.

Here are more questions to ask ahead of building your Service Catalog in terms of process:

  • What metrics are enough to get us started, but still ensure we are successful in phase 1?
  • How can we agree on them and get broader adoption of them?
  • What sorts of policies and processes might be useful to help us manage and deliver this?
  • Finally – how do we go about getting these deeply “in” the technology – so the work comes to us with process and policy compliance already baked in?

3 - Ignore technology at your own peril

While service is more important than ever, a good technology platform is a must-have. And having an experienced ITSM partner (who’s “been there and done that”) goes a long way in mitigating the challenges ahead in building an IT platform that meets the needs of your customers.

Here are two considerations to keep in mind when it comes to technology: 1) there may be a need for new enabling technology, or 2) perhaps there may be competing platform choices both inside and outside of IT in your organization.

How can you ensure that you have a good platform, that can easily incorporate, or even bring some customer centric best practices in policy and process?

For ServiceNow – it is not uncommon for different groups to “own” or be responsible for different functional areas of the platform.  If so, you need to have a consistent way to coordinate that interaction.

4 - Culture, a hidden gem in IT projects

Enacting change in ITSM requires, first, an understanding of customer needs, which can include the introduction of process improvements and technology to provide them with what they want. But the underlying objective of building a service catalog is to transform the way people do things. So, how do we define the impact of Culture on our initial Service Catalog project?  What are the keys to successful customer adoption? What are the common objections customers raise and common risks we will face?  How do we set and manage customer expectations? 

If your organization considers all the questions above regarding people, process, technology and culture, and works diligently to find the right answers, then you can expect to identify ways you likely would have missed, to improve customer interactions and enhance their experiences.

Ultimately, you’ll discover how to optimize the business value of your Service Catalog investment and create a solution customers will love…and use.



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

Feel free to contact Don at



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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