What is a Service Catalog? Simply put it is system or documentation that allows people to preview the services they can obtain from you and the expectation they can have of getting those services (time, cost, quality, etc...).
Do we need a Service Catalog? Do you need a resume to get a job? No, but if you want the right job, and want to get paid fairly for the abilities you can bring, and want to set the right expectation, then you will want to have a clearly articulated resume.
Same thing with the IT Service Catalog. If you want the business to appreciate the value IT brings to the organization, and you want to ensure that staff, suppliers, and costs are adequately budgeted for, then you must present to the business your capabilities. The Service Catalog is where you will publish and present what IT will do, and thus what they will not do. At face the business will not necessarily want IT to have this. If you do not currently have an IT Service Catalog, then currently the Business can ask you for whatever they want, and IT has to scramble to either try and justify why they can't do it, or figure it out. If there is no cost allocation in place for IT resources, then in the eye of the Business stake holder IT is a free resource, and we all know what the value of free - zero - free has no value.
Thus to really drive the value of IT services, IT must put in place a definitive "what we do, how we do it, and how much it costs" communication platform. More advanced organizations are using this information to build an on-line IT ordering site where people can order account setups, email boxes, new laptops, PDA's and Blackberries, and other enablement services. These sites will typically hang-off the Service Desk platform so that people can get services ordered without having to interact with a service request person. This can lead to tremendous cost savings and it also leaves the business in more control. So many organizations are finding the business more willing to fund the Service Catalog under the umbrella of Self-Service optimization and cost efficiency.
Next blog: "Is the customer always right?" I'll share some tech support stories to show the difference between a customer focused support person and a person who answers the phone and follows a script.