Service catalogs are hitting their peak with companies like ServiceNow currently having a near 6-billion-dollar valuation. Nearly every week I see another customer placing a web-based barrier between IT and the business. Services companies are pushing marketing about how service catalogs are the key to successful adoption of cloud and automation, as well as fixing enterprise IT’s reputation across all areas of the technology landscape.
Service catalogs do have a place, but it’s not as an abstracted, narrow, and web-based gateway to IT infrastructure and platform services. Instead, it is best applied to the service management of end-user centric services and repetitive business processes that support end users such as technology on-boarding, password management and end-user support.
I’ll make a bold statement: The concept of a service catalog that enables self-service to business units is not the answer to shadow IT, cloud, automation, the increase in demand for closer integration with IT, and business units looking to technology as a way to increase revenues and competitiveness within the marketplace.
The top four reasons reasons are:
1. Interfaces for service consumption already exist in most new technologies. They are called APIs, and most platforms already have a web-interface for service consumption layered on top of the APIs. (Amazon Web Services, for example).
2. The added complexity required to integrate an abstraction layer like a service catalog reduces the time IT can spend supporting business objectives. Service catalogs, when applied to IT infrastructure and platforms, tend to only focus on the objectives of IT.
3. Configuration of systems will always be stored on the configured system. The concept of a centralized configuration management database (CMDB) that is populated by a service catalog always fails to capture actual production configuration.
4. Business unit’s shadow IT embraced Amazon Web Services not because of self-service. They embraced it because of the composability of services that lead to extremely low time to market with solutions made up of many services, which is something service catalogs do not enable.
So, what do IT infrastructure and platform teams need to do instead? They need to shift towards being brokers of services and not abstractors of technology. They need to transform how they engage with business units to take a consultative approach and design solution alternatives that meet the business unit’s requirements. This will provide business units with the critical information required to make a final choice of the desired solution.
Finally, IT needs to focus on embracing Automations as the answer to efficiency. Once a given solution design has been selected by a business unit, IT should work to automate the configuration of the service and store the code in code management systems, which is the configuration management database of the future.