What’s on the menu? Building interoperable service catalogues…

Robert Stroud posed the question “What do holiday shopping, booking travel and the service catalog library standard all have in common?” on his blog earlier today. I enjoyed reading the analogy, and had a quick re-look at the SPACL documents which I was only marginally aware of. However, this made me think….

I like the analogy with travel services…  and agree wholeheartedly at how much easier traveling has become.   However, the main problem I see is that the travel services used underlying terms that were much more agreed upon than what is the general case in ITSM. Vendors seem to add their own meaning and interpretation in a bid to differentiate their service offerings from one another, leading to confusion even in the presence of good practice guidelines like ITIL, which also has some inconsistencies (see eg The IT Skeptic blogpost: Do we overcook services).  In the travel business, however the commonality (call it the underlying ontology if you wish) was much better defined: a “destination” has the same meaning to just about everybody. I am not sure that the commonalities as far as “IT Services” is at the same level of abstraction as in the underlying concepts in traveling. Looking at the draft object model the (what looks to me as a) lack of common well-defined attributes shows as much.  Many of the fields allow for a kind-of meta-modeling approach allowing you to hook on just about anything (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but its debatable how much standardization that is…

Of course this comment may sound negative, but, alas I agree that something needs to be done, and a start is necessary somewhere – but I think the road is much further and full of obstacles than what the SPACL White paper suggests. Like the old adage goes: “The devil is in the details…”

So my conclusion?  Open standards is the way to go, the service catalogue/portfolio makes a lot of sense and deserves our attention and cooperation. However, we seem to be dealing with more heterogeneity and a less well-defined ontology than many other “catalogues” – certainly at least as far as the travel industry is going…

Please tell me what I miss? Please tell me that its easier than it is… (of course feel free to tell me that its even more complicated than I think…)


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