John Weathington, President of Excellent Management Systems, recently posted a blog entitled IT service catalog best practices: Is not having one key to better IT? In it, he discusses the premise that implementing a Service Catalog alters the business’s perception of IT, establishing IT purely as a service provider. But if the business perceives IT as a service provider, then IT is being recognized for providing value to the business.
I don’t believe that an IT organization has to be either a service provider or an information partner – a “service provider” being a sort of subservient unit to the business and an “information partner” being integrated with the business at a strategic level. They aren’t mutually exclusive – or they certainly shouldn’t be – and the reality is that IT should be a mixture of both a service provider to support current operations, and information partner to support growth and transformation.
The correct balance between service provider and information partner will depend on company, business model and business objectives. The current balance between service provider and information partner will depend on IT maturity, IT people, leadership and budget.
Many IT organizations do get stuck in “service provider mode” simply because they don’t have the resources to shift up a gear and become an information partner. But it’s not so much about making a choice of service provider OR information partner – it’s about being an effective service provider then becoming an information partner. They are more like maturity levels than mutually opposing positions.
In order to deliver maximum value to the business, an IT organization needs to integrate with the business at a deep level. Certainly, a Service Catalog doesn’t directly help foster deep interaction between IT and the business, but indirectly it enables IT to tackle the problem. By using a Service Catalog, IT can streamline service operations and release IT people from day-to-day operations. This is the stage at which IT is able to evolve itself to be a service provider and an information partner.
The point that John makes about IT as a “black box” is a good one, and it is one which a Service Catalog can also help with. By presenting a portfolio of services and costs to the business, and providing visibility of IT activity, IT can provide a window into the black box and prove the value they deliver to the business and the business user. When the business knows the value that IT delivers, the perception of IT as a “black box” dissolves.
Gartner recently published a report entitled “Critical Capabilities for IT Service Catalog” which evaluates 10 Service Catalog tools and the Service Catalog capabilities.
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