Many of my recent consulting interactions with service organizations and their customers has been making one strong statement:Visibility_Page_Header

Service Portfolio needs to be brought into a larger mainstream role over Service catalogue in service provider scenarios. Or in other words, Service Catalogue might have to have a larger scope than just the ‘live and currently offered services’.

First, let us set the context here:

ITIL® has been clear on one aspect:

  • Service Catalogue is the only part of the service portfolio published to customers (ITIL® Service strategy publication).
  • Also the diagram in figure 2.6 in the same publication indicates Service catalogue as the only portion of the Portfolio that is visible to customer

In a typical IT Service management scenarios (especially in external, retail service scenarios), this is more or less logical and accurate.

However, in today’s world of ‘so-called’ Business-IT integration (which ITIL® has been describing from its 2007 edition onward), will this be sufficient?

Let us look at the two scenarios of service providers:

a) An Internal IT Provider:

In this scenario, the business units are the key customers for the Service provider (internal IT department or a shared service unit). In this case, if only the Service Catalogue is visible and used in interactions with the customers, will that suffice for an effective business-IT integration?

It is quite apparent that a visibility into the Service Pipeline is highly essential to achieve effective levels of business and IT integration. In the internal Service scenario, the pipeline will be largely driven by the business strategy and priorities, and hence it is important for the business to have a visibility into the Service Pipeline of IT in order to understand and fine-tune (if and as required) the IT’s strategy and capabilities to ensure alignment to business.

So it is clear that, in an internal service scenario, the Service Portfolio (selective portions of the same, in some cases, where applicable) need to be visible to the ‘customer’ organization to ensure proper alignment and integration.

 b) An External Service provider:

Recently I happened to have interactions with the external customers of an IT solution/service provider. One of the key challenges that were repeatedly voiced by the key stakeholders in customer organization was:

  • Lack of visibility into the future solutions that the solution/service provider was planning to offer and/or the roadmap for the existing solutions/services in terms of enhancements and features.

Why is this important to the customer organization?

The organization’s business has a key dependency on the solution/services provided by this external provider (as the solution is a core part of their business, in many cases such as the organization I was interacting with). As a part of their future business strategy and planning, it is important for them to understand the strategy and roadmap of the service provider to ensure alignment to their own strategies and if required to look at alternative solutions/providers in advance as well as to de-risk effectively. The same is true even to have an adequate advance visibility to the Service/solution retirement plans as well – than to get a last minute surprises.

Through this, it is evidently important even in an external provider scenario, that the customers get a (selective) visibility on to the providers Service Portfolio (especially Service pipeline and retirement plans – not just the Service catalogue).

Does the customer need to have access to entire Portfolio? Definitely NO (at lease in external provider scenarios)!.

Even in the current form, the Service Catalog visibility to customers is on the basis of Selectivity or need-to-know basis. A selective view (selectivity based on so many factors such as nature of business, nature of customer’s business, nature of relationship with customers, competitive scenarios,  the Service/solution Provider’s strategy etc) of the Service Portfolio is essential for the customer in order to have an effective business relationship and Business-IT integration.

Hence, there are clear indications that just a selective view of the Service Catalog portion is not adequate to achieve an effective Business-IT integration in today’s scenario. It should be a selective view of the Service Portfolio (including portions as needed from Service Pipeline and Retired Services) will be essential for Business-IT integration to be in effect.

It is time organizations (and standards such as ISO/IEC 20000) shift focus from Just Service Catalog to the Service Portfolio and its effective usage within the organization, customers and may be Suppliers as well.