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Improving the IT Shopping Experience with Service Catalog

05/25/2011 by: The SunView Team

For years now, it has been recognized that IT needs to see itself as a business-focusing on customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, improving customer satisfaction has been very much a moving target as the list of automated services IT is responsible for has greatly increased. Back in the early ‘90s, in terms of the number and diversity of services offered, IT was on the scale of a newsstand, now as a result of increased automation, most IT departments are on the scale of a supermarket.

The result of this increase is that customers of IT are often overwhelmed. They are likely as confused as I am when my wife sends me on an errand to the supermarket to buy baker's yeast. I stand there looking at the fifty different types and brands of yeast, unsure which to buy. It could be that they know exactly what they need, but when approaching IT, they are unsure how to request it. This leads to a poor shopping experience.

Unlike a supermarket's customers, IT's customers generally can't shop elsewhere-it is as if they are in an isolated small town with one store-if that store does not provide a good shopping experience, those shoppers have no alternative. Like the residents of the small town, your customers may not have the option to shop elsewhere, but they do have the option to voice their dissatisfaction to your boss.

Having likely already done everything you can to improve satisfaction with the services themselves, and given this daunting array of services IT now offers, it is time to focus on the shopping experience. That is, like a supermarket or catalog retailer, you need to focus on satisfaction during customer's research and shopping phase. IT needs to make it easier for customers to educate themselves on service choices and make it easy for them to order or request the service, understand the cost, and what outcome to expect. ITIL touches on this in the form of Service Portfolio Management and Service Catalog.

The metaphors of service portfolio management and service catalog are pretty clear. With service portfolio management, IT is managing a portfolio of services in an analogous way that a stock broker manages a portfolio of stocks, and with the business service catalog, IT is publishing a catalog in much the same way that a catalog retailer offers customers a web site to find and purchase their products.

While the overall portfolio management keeps the list of services from being overly daunting by ensuring the list is relevant to the current needs, it is the service desk web portal as a whole, and especially the service catalog, itself, that is the "store front" for IT's customers. As such, it is through a focus on the portal and service catalog that IT can most influence satisfaction during the research and shopping phase. Moreover, if the service catalog is integrated with the service request process, the overall experience can be greatly improved. The integration allows shoppers to easily track delivery of the service in much the same way that we all expect to be able to see exactly where that item we ordered on the web is in the postal system.

To ensure a satisfied shopper, the tool upon which you implement your service desk and catalog should:

  1. Allow IT to easily create a fresh, modern looking service desk web portal that projects a professional, credible image for your organization. Ideally the tool will allow you to seamlessly integrate into your existing web portal.
  2. Enable IT to be customer centric, where the business service and process are the focus, not the underlying technology and infrastructure. If an IT customer needs to know how a service is implemented, the service is not evolved or implemented to today's standards.
  3. Support service portfolio management that makes it easy to define, update, and retire services. The tool should also make it easy for IT to define which services are critical to your customers, and support advertising those that are most critical just as a supermarket spotlights certain products as you enter the door of the store.
  4. Make it easy for customers to trigger a request directly from the portal or catalog by integrating tightly with your existing service request processing system-leveraging existing request forms and workflows.
  5. Permit you and the customer to monitor the service request throughout the life-cycle by being tightly integrated with your service desk, change management, and CMDB. Importantly, this integration will also help with portfolio management, by giving insight into usage of the services offered.

SunView Software had the list above in mind when creating our recently announced Service Catalog module. Our Service Catalog Portal helps automate portfolio management while also providing a platform upon which you can easily create a customer centric, world class portal. ChangeGear already offered a great platform for providing satisfied customers during the delivery phase, permitting highly customized forms and workflow, now with the integrated Service Catalog, ChangeGear allows IT to also provide satisfaction during the "shopping" phase of IT service delivery.

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