The IT service portfolio and service catalog are both important parts of an ITIL framework. The service portfolio is a living, historical document covering IT services that:
- were done in the past, but are now retired
- are current live IT services
- are in the pipeline
The service catalog is also a living document, but it documents the here and now: IT services that are currently live or that have scheduled deployment dates.
Each has its uses and its audience, and both can be considered references. But there are misconceptions that have grown up around the service portfolio vs. the service catalog. Here are 5 of the most common of those misconceptions.
1. They’re Basically the Same Thing
Service portfolio, service catalog. Potato, po-tah-to, right? Actually, no. There is overlap between the two, in that what’s in the service catalog should also be in the service portfolio, but the two are not the same. The newer your organization, the more overlap there will be between the two, but as your corporate history plays out, the service portfolio will come to include more information and grow. The service catalog may grow too, but it won’t grow as much. Mostly, the service catalog will be updated rather than expanded, unless your organization undergoes a major IT expansion initiative.
2. One Is More Important Than the Other
One could argue that the service portfolio is the more “important” of the two, or that the service catalog is of primary importance. But they serve different purposes, so relative importance isn’t really a valid comparison. A beautiful service portfolio in an organization without a service catalog shortchanges end users, while a company with a service catalog but no service portfolio may be shortchanging its own future by not understanding the arc of progress in IT services over time.
3. The IT Service Portfolio Should Be Implemented “Top Down”
Commencing creation of a service portfolio by starting with the big questions of why IT services are needed, and then working down through the what, how, and who questions may make sense at first, but if you’ve ever worked on top-down initiatives, you know that it can be time consuming (and expensive). You don’t have to derive your IT service portfolio from first principles. There’s nothing wrong with looking at how other organizations have created theirs, and then using their underlying ideas for designing your own IT service portfolio.
4. The IT Service Catalog Should Be Implemented “Bottom Up”
You can follow someone else’s recipe, but will it taste the same? This guy doesn’t seem to think so.
By contrast, many IT organizations look at creation of the service catalog as a “bottom up” process. In other words, just re-use off-the-shelf tools and processes that organizations everywhere use. While this approach is certainly time-efficient, it focuses on tools and not enough on organizational processes. If your company’s IT services are already quite standardized, then creation of the service catalog may be mostly bottom-up, but if your IT services are very specialized, the service catalog will require at least some top-down thinking during the creation process.
5. The IT Service Portfolio Goes on a Shelf When You Finish Writing It
Typically, an IT service catalog is referenced frequently. After all, it is a catalog of services currently available to end users. The service portfolio is referenced less frequently, but it’s not something you write once and forget. For one thing, it will need to be updated as old services are retired and new ones appear in the pipeline. For another, it’s indispensible when your organization undergoes a major change or expansion. Your company’s new international workforce, for example, will need IT services too, and the service portfolio is the natural starting place for determining what services to offer.
The service portfolio and service catalog have things in common. But each has its own uses and place in your organization. Don’t shortchange either, and your IT service management systems will rest upon a stronger foundation.
Samanage, a leading provider of IT service management software, offers service catalog tools that are flexible and powerful enough to be used for building your organization’s service portfolio and service catalog. Everything can be easily customized to fit your needs, and Samanage makes updating a cleaner, easier process, so you can ensure your current service portfolio and service catalog serve your needs now and in the future.
About Nathan Riley
Nathan Riley is a Sales Director, ITSM at SolarWinds. He has nine years experience in the industry, and has had a front row seat for the evolution of service management as a platform for the entire organization. He helps organizations ranging from SMB to Fortune 500 bring customized service to employees. Nathan proudly served the United States Armed Forces in the United States Marine Corps.
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