At first glance, the service portfolio and service catalog seem like the same thing. After all, both contain details of IT services. However, there are key differences between the two.
Definitions, if You Please
A service portfolio is a comprehensive document used in the life cycle management of all IT’s products and services, including those no longer offered, those currently offered, and those in the pipeline. The service portfolio is an “internal-only” living historical document of product- and service-related activities.
A service catalog, details the currently-active IT products and services and may include information on those that will be deployed soon. The catalog also includes what the service is, what its objectives are, how it will be performed, how long it will take to complete, and what it will cost (if applicable). The service catalog is an “outward facing” document for your end users.
Let’s use an analogy. Pretend you’re an architect. Your portfolio contains examples of work you have completed for your clients, examples of what projects you’re doing now, and information about how you’d like to utilize your expertise in the future. If you were to create the equivalent of the “service catalog,” it would contain information about exact services you provide, how the services are performed, their time to completion, and what you charge for your services.
Differences are Important
We’ve got 5 reasons why the differences between service portfolio and service catalog are important.
1. Maintain Consistency with ITIL Framework
This is a matter of good corporate IT hygiene. When you bring in a new IT service manager, collaborate with another company on an IT initiative, bring in a consultant, or take on the task of creating a service catalog and portfolio, knowing the difference between the two keeps everyone on the same page, with the consistency making communication easier.
2. Prioritizing Your Efforts
Various opinions exist on which should come first: the service catalog or the service portfolio. The choice may depend on many factors, including if previous IT services were well-documented and what current resources allow. Many people believe that initial efforts should be placed on the service catalog, due to it being a more focused document. Afterwards, information from the service catalog can be used as a springboard to create a service portfolio. The “right” answer about which to tackle first depends on your particular organization’s priorities and resources.
3. Know Where to Place Your “Marketing” Efforts
The service portfolio is usually an internal document that the IT help desk and management use to gain a historical overview of IT services, assess what worked and what didn’t, and try to lay out long-term plans. It doesn’t “market” services, per se.
However, your service catalog, being an outward-facing document primarily directed at end users, really is like a catalog — here is a service you may be interested in, this is what the service does, how it’s done, and how long you can expect it to take. It should be written with less “IT speak,” enabling end users to understand and appreciate it.
4. View ITSM Both Long- and Short-Term
Service portfolio vs. service catalog is also about long-term versus short-term. The service portfolio gives the historical perspective of the company’s IT and helps determine how to head into the future (i.e. budgeting and researching new technologies), with fewer specifics. Technology changes rapidly, so trying to nail down specific future services using just the information in your service portfolio may be an exercise in futility. Your service catalog, on the other hand, is about here and now.
5. Prepare End Users for Upcoming Changes
Let’s say your local game store gives you new product release dates, so you’ll know when to expect an anticipated product. Your service catalog does the same. For example, it can tell end users: “Our social help desk app is scheduled to launch September 1.”
In general, service catalog users have less interest in long-term plans with unknown effects (like when your new data center is expected to be complete), and have more interest in knowing information like, “When does the help desk integration with Salesforce Chatter go live?” or “When will the IT help desk start using remote desktop support, so I don’t have to wait for someone to show up or walk me through a fix?”
The service portfolio and service catalog are both important, living documents that make planning and delivery of IT services organized and better communicated. Choosing a service catalog, service portfolio, or both depends on what you as an IT organization want and what your user base has come to expect. Whichever service portal you choose, make sure it will be well maintained.
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.
Read more articles by Nathan