Service Portfolio vs Service Catalog: 5 Reasons You Should Know the Differences

At first glance, the service portfolio and service catalog almost seem like the same thing. After all, both contain details of IT services. However, there are important differences when you’re talking about service portfolio vs. service catalog.

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To the casual observer, these may look similar, but use the wrong one for the job, and the differences become obvious.

service portfolio is an overarching document used in the management of the life cycles of all services: including those no longer offered, those currently offered, and those in the pipeline. The service portfolio is more of a living historical document of service-related activities.

service catalog, on the other hand, details the currently-active IT services and may include information on those that will be deployed soon. The service catalog is an “outward facing” document for your end users.

To use an analogy, suppose you’re an architect. Your portfolio contains examples of work you have completed for your clients, work representative of what you’re doing now, and information about where you want to take your expertise in the future. If you as an architect were to create the equivalent of the “service catalog,” it would contain information about exact services you provide, how the services are performed, how long they take to complete, and how much you charge.

There are several reasons you should understand the service portfolio vs service catalog differences. Here are 5 of them.

1. To Remain Consistent with ITIL Framework

This is a matter of good corporate IT hygiene. When you bring in a new IT service manager, collaborate with another company on an IT initiative, bring in a consultant, or take on the task of creating a service catalog and portfolio, knowing the difference between the service portfolio and the service catalog keeps everyone on the same page and makes communication easier.

2. To Prioritize Your Efforts

There are varying opinions on which should come first: the service catalog or the service portfolio. The choice may depend on many factors, including how well-documented past IT services were and what your resources allow. The service catalog is a more focused document, and many people think that this is where your initial efforts should be focused, followed by use of the information in the service catalog as a springboard to creating a service portfolio. The “right” answer about which to tackle first depends on your particular organization’s priorities and resources.

3. To Know Where to Place Your “Marketing” Efforts

The service portfolio is usually an internal document that the IT help desk and management use to gain a historical overview of IT services, assess what worked and what didn’t, and try to lay out long-term plans. It doesn’t “market” services, per se. Your service catalog, however, being an outward-facing document primarily directed at end users, really is like a catalog: here is a service you may be interested in, what this service does, how it’s done, and how long you can expect it to take. It should be written with less “IT-speak” so that end-users understand and appreciate it.

4. To View ITSM Both Long Term and Short Term

Service portfolio vs. service catalog is also about long-term versus short-term. The service portfolio gives the long view and helps you determine how to play the long game, with fewer specifics. Technology changes so rapidly that trying to nail down specific future services using just the information in your service portfolio may be an exercise in futility. Your service catalog, on the other hand, is about here and now, and the near future.

5. To Prepare End Users for Upcoming Changes

Just as your local game store gives you release dates so you’ll know when to expect an anticipated product, your service catalog can tell end users: “Our social help desk app is scheduled to launch September 1” (or whatever). Service catalog users generally have less interest in long-term plans with unknown effects (like when your new data center is expected to be complete), and are more interested in finding out things like, “When does the help desk integration with Salesforce Chatter go live?” or “When will the IT help desk start using remote desktop support so I don’t have to wait for someone to show up or walk me through a fix?”

The service portfolio and service catalog are both important, living documents that make planning and delivery of IT services better. Samanage, a leading cloud IT service management software provider, gives you the tools you need for creating and managing your IT service catalog and developing a service portfolio that can help your organization map out where it’s been and where it needs to go.

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