Catalog 'sprawl' hampers enterprise access to IT services

That ideal 'single pane of glass' to any and all IT and business services still eludes most enterprises, survey finds.

A new survey finds that a majority of IT professionals say service "catalog sprawl" is taxing their operations -- increasing expenses and risks. It's still too difficult for users to find IT and business services available within their organizations.  

IBM Watson Group-photo from IBM Media Relations
Image: IBM

We hear about all kinds of "sprawls" these days -- server sprawl, virtual machine sprawl, and storage sprawl, just to name a few. But the tool that's supposed to help eliminate that sprawl and make everything sensible to enterprise users -- service catalogs -- is also suffering from a sprawl of its own, according to a recent survey of 236 IT managers and professionals conducted by PMG.

The survey's authors define catalog sprawl as "the condition encountered when organizations introduce multiple front end tools for employees to procure different types of services or to request help."

As a results of such sprawl, which comes out of siloed departments or a lack of communication, "IT departments may find the very tools designed to help streamline processes have become the biggest obstacles to consistency and continued efficiency," the survey report states.

But this is 2014, right? Aren't enterprises now digitized and virtualized to the point in which information on services is available through a service layer? Private clouds have been around for almost five years, service oriented architecture has been around since the early 2000s, and corporate intranets have been around for almost two decades.

Apparently, that "single pane of glass" still eludes just about everybody (73 percent, the survey says). It's still a sought-after goal: 77 percent believe achieving a single pane of glass, one portal where users can find all of an organization's offerings from to A to Z, would enable IT to be more "strategic." The top metrics by which they would rate impact of this strategy are usage, quality of consumption and service level impact.

The biggest obstacles to executing on this strategy include a lack of leadership from top management and a lack of cooperation from end-user departments such as marketing, sales and HR.

The survey finds that a majority of IT professionals (71 percent) say they have up to five customer-facing tools, which often include service desk, hardware and software provisioning, identity management, and on-boarding and off boarding solutions.

The top challenges associated with multiple catalogs in use inside an organization include increased administration expenses (72 percent), decreased value of the service and offerings portfolio (60 percent) and increased software expenditures (52 percent).

To address catalog sprawl, 59 percent of respondents are looking toward consolidating employee-facing catalogs. The biggest hurdles to consolidation include the following:

  • Buy-in from business leaders (42 percent)
  • Legacy applications and software (37 percent)
  • Insufficient budget (35 percent)
  • Lack of IT staff expertise (33 percent)
  • Buy-in from IT leadership (31 percent)