The Service Portfolio in ITIL: What is it, And What’s the Difference With The Service Catalog

Sophie Danby September 12, 2023
- 8 min read

The service portfolio helps you pull together your end-to-end service offering and make it more focused on customer outcomes. Done well, it can promote IT Service Management (ITSM) and make your services more visible. 

Defined in ITIL, this process broadens the view and incorporates IT services across their entire lifecycle. In the following post we will explore its full scope of practice and the benefits it can bring to service delivery and user experience across your organization.

Let’s get started!

ITIL service portfolio definition

The ITIL service portfolio represents a comprehensive view of an organization's IT delivery, including current, previous, and potential future products and services. It helps organizations align services with business goals, track investment in services, ensure services are clearly defined, managed, and communicated, and make informed decisions about business offerings. 

The service portfolio is all about accessibility and transparency; it ensures services are linked to business outcomes and are promoted to stakeholders. 

Service portfolio vs. service catalog 

Many people get confused about the difference between the service portfolio and the service catalog, so let's take a moment to understand the difference. Both of them are closely related concepts within the ITIL service ecosystem. 

  • The service portfolio encompasses all IT services across their entire lifecycle, from conceptualization to retirement. It covers everything from legacy services that are no longer being used, active services via the service catalog, and future services that are under consideration by the business. In addition, it provides a strategic overview of all services, allowing organizations to prioritize, plan, and make decisions based on aligning IT services with business objectives.

  • The service catalog is a subset of the service portfolio; it communicates all available services to the end user community and promotes their availability and support details. It is a shop window for IT services, much like an online shopping catalog. It includes information such as service descriptions, service levels, pricing (if applicable), and any relevant user instructions.

Service Portfolio Service Catalog
Encompasses all IT services across their entire lifecycle, from conceptualization to retirement. Encompasses all current IT services.
Is managed by the Service Portfolio Management process (ITIL v3) or the Portfolio Management practice (ITIL 4). Is supported by the Service Catalog Management process.
Is used at the strategic level for decision-making and planning. Used at the operational level by the service desk and end users.
Provides high-level information about services and may contain business cases for services in the pipeline section. Provides more detailed service information, including service overview, supported hours, support detail details, and links to the ITSM tool to log incidents and requests and access knowledge articles and FAQs.

Seven benefits of Service Portfolio Management  

The benefits of Service Portfolio Management include:

  • Service Transparency - The service portfolio provides a structured way to document and communicate IT services to customers, users, and stakeholders. This transparency promotes what services are available and their current status.

  • Lifecycle Management - The service portfolio supports the entire lifecycle of IT services, from initial concept through development, deployment, and retirement. This comprehensive approach ensures that services are managed in a structured manner from start to finish.

  • Support for decision making - By categorizing services into planned, active, and retired, organizations can better prioritize resource allocation and decision-making based on the needs and demands of the business.

  • Risk Management - The service portfolio helps organizations understand the service ecosystem, including any dependencies, enabling them to identify gaps, plan for potential disruptions, and develop the appropriate contingency plans.

  • Customer-centric approach - The service portfolio focuses on the needs of customers and stakeholders and aligns services accordingly. A customer-centric approach improves customer outcomes, experience, and satisfaction levels.

  • Consistent service experience - Using the service portfolio encourages standardization of service definitions, processes, and documentation, leading to a more consistent overall experience.

The three elements of the service portfolio

A service portfolio is made up of three main elements:

  • The service pipeline - The status of proposed services and services under development. Pipeline services haven't gone live and are unavailable to end users. The pipeline also captures future growth and when these services may be available.

  • The service catalog - We’ve seen this one.  It comprises a list of all the services and products offered in the current service offering. All services in the service catalog are live and available to the business. 

  • Retired services - All services being or have been phased out, along with historical information for each legacy service.  

The Service Portfolio Management process

By creating a service portfolio, you're making a statement. You're making a commitment to your customers, users, and stakeholders that you care about your service, making them effective, efficient, and easy to use. Furthermore, you commit to user experience and continual improvement

If you’re on board with that, here are the steps to creating a service portfolio:

  1. Start where you are - To borrow a guiding principle from ITIL, don't reinvent the wheel. Look at what you have in place already and build on it. If you already have a service catalog, are you already a third of the way there? No service catalog yet? Ask your service desk for a list of their most frequently logged tickets and build one from there. For your pipeline, work with your Project Management, Program Management, and Business Analyst teams to view potential planned services. For retired services, look for services that are decommissioned or are no longer in use so they can be added to your portfolio to support any potential incidents with legacy services.

  2. Set your scope - When building your service portfolio, set your scope, what you aim to achieve, and ensure it is communicated to all stakeholders. Make sure to make it as realistic as possible.

  3. Carry out a baselining exercise - Build a list of all IT services your business offers, either planned, currently live, or no longer in use. If you have an IT Asset Management (ITAM) team, ask for their help because they will likely have relevant information to include.
  4. Categorize and sort your services - Once you have your list of services, sort them into legacy, current, and planned categories so it is easy to prioritize and build support models around them.

  5. Prioritize services - Prioritize services based on their strategic alignment with business goals, customer demand, and resource availability. This prioritization helps in resource allocation and decision-making.

  6. Build your service details - Now that you have an organized list of services, you can add details supporting other practices. Details to include in your service portfolio include service description, availability, service owner, where to go for help and support, and links to supporting Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

  7. Create processes to support your service portfolio - The supporting process includes using automation to help the portfolio, keeping the service catalog in sync with the overall portfolio, and ensuring SLAs are in place and that change enablement, knowledge management, and transition activities are in place to manage the end-to-end service lifecycle. 

  8. Use tools to do the heavy lifting - ITSM tools can be used to create and manage your service portfolio effectively. Implement processes for regular updates, reviews, and additions to the portfolio. 

  9. Make it easy to find and use - Once your service portfolio is established and validated, it's time to put it to good use! Deploy the service catalog part of the portfolio into your service desk environment so that users can easily access and understand the services offered.

  10. Maintain and improve - Build in continuous improvement practices by regularly updating your service portfolio. Add new services, retire outdated ones, and review existing ones to ensure that they align with your business needs.

How does Service Portfolio Management relate to other ITIL practices?

The service portfolio can be an enabler to other ITIL practices, for example:

  • Problem Management: The pipeline helps it easier to identify service-related problems, and having a prioritized list of services can help support teams prioritize business-critical services as part of the resolution effort.

  • Change Enablement/Management: The pipeline makes it easy to assess the impact of changes because it can make the broader ecosystem more visible to support and transition teams. 

  • Service Level Management: The service portfolio can help make SLAs more accessible by promoting their existence to the rest of the business.

To conclude

On the whole, the service portfolio provides a comprehensive overview of your service ecosystem. Although it incorporates the service catalog, its area of domain is broader. It  looks at your services' whole lifecycle and includes both current and retired services. 

It will help you both improve consistency, transparency, and visibility regarding your Service Management processes. At the same time, the service portfolio supports other ITIL processes, such as Problem and Change Enablement/Management.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you create an IT service portfolio? 

Start where you are and build on it. Don't forget, if you have a service catalog, you're already at least a third of the way there!

What does a service portfolio look like? 

It is a dynamic way of displaying all live, planned, and retired services. 

What does a service portfolio manager do? 

Manages the service portfolio and ensures it is accurate and the information it contains is current. 

Read other articles like this : ITIL, ITSM, Service Catalog

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