Service catalogs: What is on the IT menu?

Difficult economic times could drive IT departments to develop IT service catalogs to help them more efficiently serve their end-user communities.

IT departments look to service catalog technologies from vendors such as Digital Fuel, newScale, Oblicore and PMG to align IT functions with business demands in a down economy.

IT departments faced with lean staffs and limited budgets could keep better track of end-user demand and IT priorities by creating an IT service catalog that lets potential customers choose the services they need and enables IT to allocate available resources.

How to build an IT service catalog

The premise of an IT service catalog isn’t new, but industry watchers suggest this past year’s recession could have given new life to efforts around identifying, describing and publishing a list of IT services for end users to consume. Best practice frameworks such as ITIL lay out how IT departments could establish an IT service catalog, and vendors such as BMC, Digital Fuel, newScale and Oblicore have also developed products to help IT departments create catalogs.

“People are trying to get their service catalogs in order so that their end customers know what they can get and how much it will cost. This enables IT operations to structure their people and organize their work around the actual demand,” says Evelyn Hubbert, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

The research firm details service catalogs and several other IT operations technologies and concerns in the Forrester Research report “The Low-Hanging Fruit That Service Operations Teams Should Consider Now.” The report explains that service catalogs are a subset of larger service request management efforts. This initiative manages the “lifecycle of service requests” from end-user initiation to IT department fulfillment.

“As the demands from end users for services become more of a 24-hour or ‘always-on’ situation, the path to self-service is a natural one. … Typically, service request management should be driven by a standard set of services that are available through a service catalog,” the report reads.

IT service catalogs could also be considered a step in the evolution toward IT and business alignment. By developing a “menu” of services, IT departments can reduce costs, maximize available resources and optimize service delivery.

“We’ve seen an explosion in interest around service catalogs, but IT departments can’t transform everything over night,” says Glenn O’Donnell, senior analyst at Forrester. “Service catalog vendors such as newScale and Digital Fuel have benefited from this heightened interest in IT business integration and could become pretty ripe targets for acquisition when the big companies realize the market is hot.”

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