By Rodrigo Fernando

The disconnect between business
goals and IT priorities consistently ranks among the top three issues facing CIOs year after year. While the specific wording varies
from survey to survey, the strong message is the same — business unit
executives and end users alike don’t trust that IT is working on the right
things to move the business forward.

At the heart of this problem is a breakdown in communication
that impacts trust from multiple directions:

  • End
    users don’t know what to expect from IT, so they set their own
  • Business
    unit executives want more transparency into what they get for their IT
    budget, yet they lack visibility into the return on their IT spend.
  • Most
    IT organizations communicate using terminology and context that is difficult
    for business unit executives and end users to understand.

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Re-establishing trust means that IT must fundamentally
change the way it views its relationship with business units and end users. A
critical first step is a fundamental shift to a provider-customer relationship
where IT continually markets the value of the services offered — where
business unit executive and end user expectations are not only correctly set,
but consistently met.

Gone are the days when the internal IT organization owns a
monopoly on service delivery. Today’s
business unit executives view IT operations like any other vendor. Poorly
executed service today means they may shift to another vendor tomorrow.

The IT Service Catalog

More and more leading IT organizations are deploying a
Service Catalog as the cornerstone of their shift to a more service-driven and
customer-focused approach, or as the foundation of their ITIL initiative. As a
vehicle for communicating and marketing IT services to both business
decision-makers and end users, the IT Service Catalog can help address this
trust deficit on two fronts.

The most important requirement for any Service Catalog is
that it should be business-oriented, with services articulated in
business-relevant terms. Yet depending on the audience, users will require a
very different view into the Service Catalog. IT organizations should thus
consider a two-pronged approach to their Service Catalog:

  • The
    executive-level, service portfolio view of the Service Catalog used by
    business unit executives to understand how IT’s
    portfolio of service offerings map to business unit needs. This is
    referred to in this article as the “service portfolio.”
  • The
    employee-centric, request-oriented view of the Service Catalog that is
    used by end users (and even other IT staff members) to browse for the
    services required and submit requests for IT services. For the purposes of
    this article, this view is referred to as a “service request catalog.”

The business executive view

Business executives need to gain visibility into the value
delivered by IT infrastructure and operations. According to a recent Gartner and IBM survey of 456 senior business executives,
only 17% of finance executives agreed with the statement “Our investments
in IT are delivering business value.”

As the economic buyer of IT services, these executives look
for a portfolio view of the service offerings provided by IT at the budget
planning level. They demand greater transparency and they expect the service
portfolio to help them answer questions like, “What does IT do? Why does
IT cost so much? Is IT doing a good job?” 

An executive-level service portfolio should describe the
broad categories of service offerings, with service tier options and cost
elements. Examples of service offerings represented in a service portfolio may
include application hosting for an ERP system; or e-mail with gold, silver, and
bronze service level options. Taking the portfolio a step
further, services can be represented in the context of how IT supports
business processes — such as the infrastructure to operate a kiosk at a retail
location, or the underlying IT services that enable the order-to-cash process.

Once this portfolio of services has been defined, business
decision-makers can browse the service offerings and drill into the associated
agreements, service components, and financial information. With a
business-oriented view of available services, including key cost and quality
metrics, they have greater visibility into the business value of IT. IT
relationship managers and service level managers can create a tailored
portfolio of offerings, establish agreements, set pricing and objectives,
monitor performance, forecast demand, and track service consumption for each
business unit customer.

The end-user view

End users want improved service quality and reliability. What’s
critical is that the day-to-day IT services they need to perform their jobs are
easily accessible, delivered consistently, and of high
quality. Yet a TNS National Omnibus Survey found that 43 percent of employees
are dissatisfied with the responsiveness of IT service delivery. A common
complaint from the end user audience is “Why is IT so difficult to work
with?  Why does it take IT so long to
fulfill a simple request?”

End users need an actionable and easy-to-use service request
catalog that describes the products and services they are entitled to order or
request from IT. Items in this view of the Service Catalog typically include
orderable services where the user initiates a request that results in a series
of delivery activities. Examples of orderable services include the traditional
IMAC (install, move, add, change) services required to provision a new PC,
upgrade an email account, or provide access to an application.

Other examples in the service request catalog include more “advanced”
IT services — such as application enhancement requests, or even IT-to-IT
requests like setting up a new server to host an application. As the central
intake point for all IT demand, users will also expect to submit “break/fix”
incidents through the service request catalog. Finally, this view of the
catalog may also provide FAQs and other
information-only content readily accessible to end users.

The end-user view of the Service Catalog offers a way to standardize
service deliverables, establish service level expectations, and market services
to end users. The user can quickly browse or search for available services in
the catalog, submit a request, and monitor delivery status — making it as easy
for employees to find and order IT services as it is for consumers to order a
book on

Time to get moving

Individually, both the end user and executive view of the
Service Catalog can help to improve internal customer satisfaction and
re-establish trust between IT and the business. When adopted as part of a
complete IT Service Portfolio Management solution, IT organizations find they
are able to quickly transform the IT-business relationship.

There are multiple paths to realizing the benefits of a
Service Catalog — whether starting with the portfolio of services for business
executives or publishing the service request catalog for end users. IT
organizations should begin by focusing initially on the view that addresses the
most pressing challenges in their interactions with the business.

Whatever you do, get started with your Service Catalog now. Every
moment delayed is time wasted and opportunity lost — IT can’t afford to let
the distrust prolong and fester.

Rodrigo Fernando
Flores is the founder and chief technology officer of newScale,
with more than 20 years experience in software development and IT management.
He is a member of the IT Service Management Forum, and has advised several
leading Fortune 500 companies in their Service Catalog initiatives.