Understand the Differences Between a Business Service Catalog and a Technical Service Catalog
Posted by on October 12, 2018
Matt Klassen is the vice president of product marketing at Cherwell. He is passionate about enabling enterprises to accelerate their digital journey through better software and better service. Matt has 25 years experience in developing, architecting, selling, and marketing enterprise software solutions for IT and product teams.
IT Service catalogs play an important role in connecting the business community at a given organization with the IT services (and resources) that the organization offers. Organizations that use IT in daily operations benefit from having an IT service catalog that defines and publishes available services. This, in turn, helps standardize related processes and supporting tasks such as request fulfillment or change management approvals and enable consistent communication about IT issues and requests.
In this article, we're focusing on the differences between a business service catalog and a technical service catalog. We'll also touch on what a service catalog is, the importance of the service catalog management processes, and why both types of service catalogs are important drivers of value and IT efficiency within the organization.
What Is a Service Catalog?
Under ITIL®, an IT service catalog is defined as a database or structured document with information about all operational IT services, including those available for deployment. The service catalog is the only part of the service portfolio that is published and made available for users, and is used to facilitate requests for IT service and IT service delivery. The service catalog includes information about deliverables, pricing, who to contact for a specific service, and what processes to follow for ordering or requesting a service.
IT service catalogs are typically published to business end-users through a web-based portal on an organization's website or internal network. It contains information about all services that users can request from IT. ITIL suggests the inclusion of the following data elements for items within the service catalog:
- Service Name - Service names may differ between the IT organization and the business organization and should be chosen to reduce confusion around the name of a service.
- Service Description - Service descriptions should be written in simple, non-technical terms that can be easily understood by users outside the IT organization.
- Service Availability - The IT organization should communicate the availability of the service in both hours and days, including any exceptions where the service is not available. Organizations should note which services are used most frequently by business users to help understand the impact of the unavailability of the service.
- Target Availability - While service availability reflects the current availability status of the service, target availability is a service goal that the organization is striving to achieve. There may be costs associated with increasing the availability of services, but they may be offset by the business benefits of reduced service interruptions.
- Backup - The type of backup along with its frequency should be included with the service data.
- Service Owner - In ITIL, the service owner is the person within the organization who provides the funding for the service. This person may have to approve or authorize expenses related to fulfilling a given service request.
- Service Representative - IT service catalogs serve as a single point of contact between the IT organization and the business community using IT services. The role of service representatives is to act as a focal point for communication between these two groups. Service representatives receive requests and feedback from the business community which are used to make decisions within the IT organization. They also communicate information to the business community about updates, outages, and other IT issues.
- Service Criticality - Services within the service catalog have different levels of importance to the business. They can be categorized as mission-critical services, business-critical services, business operational services, or administrative services. Services that are mission critical typically require emergency action in case of an outage, as function must be restored to the service immediately. In contrast, administrative services may inconvenience some users if unavailable, but they won't cause any lost revenue for the business.
IT service catalogs play an important role in facilitating the role of IT as an enabling force within organizations. The service catalog, often made available through a web-based portal, acts as a single point of contact where members of the business community can learn about IT services that are available, communicate with the IT organization, and get access to the services they need to be productive.
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Where Do Service Catalogs Fit into the ITIL Framework?
Service catalogs play an important role in organizations that are seeking to follow updated ITIL best practices or to comply with the ISO 20000 international standard for IT service management. The latest version of ITIL conceptualizes IT as a service-driven organization that aims to support strategic business objectives. In ITIL 2011 and also originally in V3, five volumes were published, each corresponding to one of the five stages of the IT service lifecycle:
- Service Strategy
- Service Design
- Service Transition
- Service Operation
- Continual Service Improvement
Service catalogs are designed and maintained through the process called "ITIL Service Catalog Management," which is part of the service design book of ITIL. The stated objective of this process is to ensure that a service catalog is produced and maintained, containing accurate information on all operational services and those being prepared to be run operationally. This process provides vital information for all other ITIL service management processes: service details, current status, and the services' interdependencies.
Some IT professionals mistakenly conflate the definitions of the ITIL service catalog with the ITIL service portfolio. While the service catalog contains listings for all operational services that the IT organization provides, service portfolios also include information about the service pipeline and retired services. The service pipeline includes data about services that are currently being developed by the organization. Services can be assigned a status such as "chartered," "designed," or "in testing" to indicate what phase of development they are in. Retired services are no longer offered by the IT organization.
Business Service Catalog vs Technical Service Catalog—What's the Difference?
If you are in the process of implementing ITIL or a service catalog at your organization, you might notice that ITIL defines two types of catalogs for IT services. Business service catalogs (BSCs) and technical service catalogs (TSCs) work in unison but play completely different roles within the organization. Let's review the four key differences between them.
Business Service Catalogs Are Accessible for the Business Community
The first difference between the business and technical service catalogs is audience. The business service catalog defines the services that can be delivered to all users within an organization. As a result, the business community is encouraged to access the business service catalog for help with IT issues. A technical service catalog is typically developed internally alongside a BSC. The TSC is viewed by internal IT staff and IT management. Its role is to define the IT components necessary to support service delivery to end users.
The TSC contains information about services that IT staff must use to fulfill requests submitted through the BSC. When a user makes a request through the BSC, internal IT staff may consult the TSC to determine what services are required to fulfill the request. Today, it is common practice for IT organizations to integrate their TSC with a configuration management database (CMDB), but business users simply don't need to see all of the underlying details and information associated with IT operations.
Business Service Catalogs Cover User-Facing Services
The IT organization and business community have different perspectives on what constitutes a service and which ones are the most important. Since only the BSC is available for users who wish to make service requests, it must contain all of the essential user-facing services that the business community needs. This includes things like email fixes, access to information, services for provisioning, setting up new users, running, applications, and ensuring general business continuity.
On the other hand, the technical service catalog contains services that are infrastructure-facing, rather than user facing. This includes services that affect the data center, network or intranet system, backups, security and storage, infrastructure maintenance, and asset/configuration management.
Business Service Catalogs Are Written for Users
Business service catalogs and technical service catalogs have different audiences, and as a result, they have to be written differently to ensure clear and effective communication. The business service catalog should be free of technical language or IT jargon and should communicate clearly about the services being offered.
Just the opposite is true of the technical service catalog. This catalog is used to define infrastructure-facing services for use within the IT organization, so it's fine to include technical language in as much detail as is required to facilitate clear instructions for the service.
Business and Technical Service Catalogs Deliver Value in Different Ways
While the maintenance of both a business service catalog and a technical service catalog are important for the IT organization and the business as a whole, they may be perceived differently by the business. IT organizations and the broader business communities they serve must work to reconcile differences in the perceived impact of technical and business services within the service catalogs.
Technical services like application hosting, data backup, and maintenance may be seen as providing minimum value to a business user, while business services that enable productivity are viewed as more critical by executives and the organization as a whole. In reality, the services in the technical catalog are required to facilitate the delivery of services in the business catalog in compliance with agreed service levels—services in both catalogs work together to effect service delivery and drive business value and IT efficiency within the organization.
Lastly, some IT organizations differentiate between the "business view" and the "technical view" of the IT service catalog. In practice, this is the same as distinguishing between the BSC and the TSC. Business users see the user-facing services of the BSC and IT/technical users see the technical view, which again is often integrated with the CMDB.
Our CMDB software enables IT teams to accurately visualize how all IT elements interact with each other. Learn more.
Choosing the Right Service Catalog Software
Service catalog software can play a significant role in enabling simpler and more timely access to IT services within organizations, promoting a user-friendly experience, and reducing wait times for services with self-service and automation features. An ideal service catalog solution functions like a self-service portal where IT organizations can automate approvals, communicate via email and web with members of the business community, and access the catalog through web and mobile touch points.
For organizations that are at an early stage of adopting ITIL or ITSM best practices, it makes sense to look at service catalog solutions that are included as part of a comprehensive ITSM tool suite. Cherwell Service Management software has earned PinkVERIFY certification for eleven ITIL processes, including Incident Management, Change Management, Knowledge Management and service catalog. These certifications establish that Cherwell's ITSM tool suite adequately support the process improvement initiatives of its customers and has led Cherwell to a 98 percent customer retention rate.
Cherwell Service Management includes:
- Comprehensive ITIL process support and documentation tools
- Incident tracking and ticketing management capabilities, along with complete service desk functionality
- A highly customizable IT self-service catalogIntegration capabilities with Dell, Microsoft, Splunk, AWS, Cisco, Atlassian, and other services your organization may use
- A management interface for service-level agreements, helping your IT staff organize and prioritize tickets and service requests based on their urgency
Growing IT organizations also need an adequate solution for managing IT assets and their usage within the organization. Cherwell Asset Management gives organizations new insights into what hardware and software assets they possess and how those assets are being deployed. Our software solution enables organizations to keep track of inventory, monitor their compliance status with software licenses to avoid liability issues and easily track software installs through a comprehensive Software Identification Database.
Service catalog management is described in the Service Design book of ITIL 2011, and has the goal of creating a service catalog that contains all information about IT services that are currently operational and available through the organization.
Service catalogs contain important data about the services provided, including the service name and description, availability and service-level agreements, service owner, and criticality. This data helps IT staff efficiently fulfill service requests and prioritize which requests are the most critical to the business strategy.
The service catalog consists of a business service catalog and a technical service catalog which differ in four ways:
- The business service catalog is presented to the business community while the technical service catalog is viewed internally by the IT department.
- The business service catalog covers user-facing services while the technical catalog covers infrastructure-facing services.
- The business service catalog is written in layman's terms while the technical catalog is permitted to contain technical jargons and specific technical details.
- The business service catalog is perceived as having greater organizational value, although this view should be reconciled with the reality that a technical service catalog is needed to increase the efficiency of service delivery for business service catalog items.
Organizations seeking to establish compliance with the ITIL 2011 standard or ISO 20000 should choose a robust, flexible ITSM tool suite that includes service catalog functionality.
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