Here's the hard part: In just about any large-ish company we in IT have the same problem, so we're probably not much help if you ask about something were not intimately involved with.
So what's the real problem? Does IT really not know how to do their jobs? Are we trying to make the lives of our end users difficult? Do we get real satisfaction out of providing poor service for some customers?
Of course, the answer to all three is no, we're not really trying to make life harder for the business, we're not actively seeking job security by providing average service and certainly we don't enjoy talking with enraged users trying to do something they can quickly do on their iPads all hours of the day.
I'm not going to try and go through all of the potential causes of these issues, because in reality there are a lot of links in the chain, but I am going to focus on one that I think really matters for end users of IT and one that, if done right, has the potential to really impact satisfaction and delivery for a wide swath of the user base at most companies.
Namely: Service Catalogs
Seemingly benign, I'd like to submit to you that the service catalog is the single most effective way for an IT organization to communicate, streamline and evaluate effectiveness in providing IT services in a more constructive way within any company.
In fact, I'll go further and say that any company without a true, managed service catalog isn't providing IT service at all, they are just 'doing things' for people - even if they do them really, really well most of the time.
Let's take an example and see how it holds up: Amazon. Maybe its not an IT service catalog, but it certainly is a service catalog. When was the last time you had a hard time finding what you needed from Amazon? Does it seem like they are trying to make it hard for you to consume their services, namely buying things? Nope, they make it exceedingly easy including search, pricing, support, research and feedback. They even give you one-click ordering just to make it easier for you to part with your money.
Now contrast that with what is your likely normal interaction with your IT service provider: Hard to find, scattered about the company, no idea how much they really cost, who to call once you get them and whether your are actually going to get what you want in a timely fashion.
I know there is a difference between delivering a book and putting a server into a data center. The supply chain is longer for the server, the complexity is higher, there are more fingers in the pot, whatever. The reality is that there shouldn't really be any difference between delivering a book and installing a server from a service perspective, it should be nearly the same experience with similar support and payment methods, irrespective of how it gets done on the back-end. The devil-in-the-details on this one is that we all need to work harder at defining how the server gets installed right up front - the thing we're consistently falling down on.
Here's my proposal: There are really only so many things that need to be in a successful IT organization's service catalog and some of them can be strategically sourced by external providers, but they need to be done consistently, with clear messaging around service expectations and with at least a small amount of consideration for making them easy to find and ask about.
I really don't want to spend hours trying to explain all the elements of a comprehensive IT service catalog, because in truth, there is no such thing. What's most important is that any company establish a baseline catalog of the things it offers and that it create an ongoing process to refine and update that catalog starting from day one. The catalog WILL change over time (think adding iPads as supported devices), people WILL have opinions on what to name each service (and should have an outlet to do so), and owners of services WILL want to update pricing, timing and wording of services on an ongoing basis.
Here are a few examples to start when thinking about what is in your service catalog. Consider them ideas to get your mind going, simply search for IT Service Catalog on the web and you will certainly find more content than you could ever want or need.
- National Institutes of Health
- University of New South Wales
- Purdue University
- Kentucky Commonwealth
- Stanford University
- The Ohio State University
- Amazon.com (Right, not an IT catalog, but worthy nonetheless)
- U.S. Army
In this blog I've spent a lot of time outlining why I think the mere creation and management of the process around updating a service catalog is critical to any IT organization and indeed, any company. In the next discussion I'll outline what critical components to think through when looking towards delivering a catalog in order to create if not consistent, at least organized, experience for your user community.