Service Catalogs – What are they and why are they important to proposals?

Every prime contractor should create a Service Catalog of the products and services they offer

Have you ever been to a restaurant and they don’t have a menu of what they offer? Every prime contractor who does business with the Federal Government should create a Service Catalog of the products and services they offer. Contractors should develop both an internal and a customer-facing catalog.  

What is a Service Catalog?  

A service catalog is a register of customer-facing business/customer offerings—a complete list of all IT services and products, including those currently in use, those in development, and services and products that have been retired. 

ITIL defines a service catalog as a centralized database of accurate information about active IT service offerings and a subset of the IT service provider’s service portfolio. The IT service catalog was first introduced as part of ITIL best practices guidelines for IT service management (ITSM).  

The catalog is a single-source database that typically contains the service name, service category (hardware, software, email, data management, etc.), service description, service owner, service availability (retired, operational, in development, etc.), and service level agreements (SLAs). SLAs are usually defined as performance metrics. 

It is also important to have an internal-facing catalog where you document where and when these services have been provided and to which customers. The internal-facing catalog is designed to provide important information to corporate executives, business developers, and proposal teams, as data that resides only in a contracts database is normally not easily accessible or presented in an easy-to-understand format. 

What is the purpose of a Service Catalog?  

The purpose of this catalog is to become the centralized, single source of truth for your business development (BD) team, capture management, and proposal experience/past performance responses. Service catalog information should be presented in an organized, accessible electronic format. 

Why is this important for proposal development?  

For BD and opportunity/pursuit campaigns, it is important to understand when these corporate services have been offered, to which customers, contract values, service locations, and staffing. This is particularly important for new hires who ask, “Where do I find…” 

What does an ITIL/ITSM Service Catalog look like?  

There are a number of ITIL/ITSM templates in use today, but there is no single industry standard for a service catalog. Most of these templates are developed in Microsoft Excel so that you can filter the data and export it as shown in Exhibit 1 

Exhibit 1. Example of an ITIL/ITSM Service Catalog. ITIL/ITSM catalogs can contain service name, description, type, status, supporting services, business owners, and service owners. 

How do I create an internal Service Catalog?  

Just like the ITIL/ITSM catalog, there is no one “industry-standard” template. The best way to proceed is to “bind the problem.” In most solicitations, experience is typically bound by a 5-year period of performance requirement. Additionally, technology is changing very quickly, so you can use this metric to begin to bind the problem. 

Start by creating a counter column in column A and then listing all of your services horizontally in column B. A counter column is important because “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” (Dr. William Edwards Deming). Use rows 1 and 2 to capture your customer projects horizontally. Use the number 1 to indicate where any service is performed for each customer. Note: The number 1 can be counted—bullets or check marks can’t be counted. 

By using MS Excel, you can create a flat-file database that can link additional worksheets with more information and details using hyperlinks. The initial view of this catalog creates a dashboard to view where you have performed a service offering and who has used your services. To begin to create a successful proposal, you should have at least three examples of where you have delivered these services that are similar in size, scope, and complexity as shown in Exhibit 2. 

Exhibit 2. Graphical view of experience provides information necessary to substantiate bidding. Services and customer names can be hyperlinked to profiles and summary information to begin your knowledge management system. 

There is a reason why the government wants to see no less than three examples and usually no more than five. When a contractor can successfully perform a task or service three times, then they are deemed to be competent. When a contractor can perform a task or service five times or more, this is considered a core competency. In the example above, items numbered 10 and 11 would typically be flagged as a risk. This can usually be mitigated by using a teaming partner. 

This dashboard view provides business developers and capture managers with the evidence they need to make good pursuit decisions. The easiest selling is providing the same services to the same customers. The hardest selling is providing new services to new customers. This tool provides the information for better data-driven decision-making. 

By Eddie Becker, PMP, CPP APMP, ITILv3, CPCM

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
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