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Plan for the catalog design process

Set your catalog up to succeed with a process plan and a team with clearly defined roles.

Key insights

  • Clarify your catalog design team’s roles and responsibilities.
  • Define clear measures of success for your service catalog design.
  • Plan an incremental approach to scale your service catalog design deployment.

Organizations typically have aggressive targets for their service catalog deployment, but they under invest in creating a process to inform service catalog design and maintenance decisions. Without a planned process, service catalog design quickly fails to meet its intended objectives.

Instead, create a process plan that shows a clear understanding of:

  • Who needs to be on the design team
  • The barriers to creating a better experience and efficiency that the new service catalog needs to solve for
  • Where to first apply the new design
  • How to scale the new design

Create a service catalog design team with clear roles and responsibilities

An important first step in creating a governance plan is to clarify the roles and responsibilities required for good service catalog design. Too often, we find catalog managers working independently with the ServiceNow system administrator to design the catalog customer experience, its structure, and its underlying workflows.

However, catalog managers by themselves may not have the business context to understand your customer needs or the process design expertise to create efficient workflows. This leaves you with a catalog that’s not optimized for superior experience and efficiency.

Instead, create a design team that includes these four roles:

  1. Service owner(s) for business expertise – Service owners are, effectively, the general managers of the services you provide. They should have the best end‑to‑end view of customer needs, customer request patterns, and the fulfillment process of delivering on customer requests. They play a critical role in defining the items you need in the catalog, providing the right information associated with each catalog item, and making sure that catalog items are relevant to individual customer needs.
  2. Solution architect(s) for process design expertise – Creating a workflow on the Now Platform™ is easy, but the workflow’s value depends on how effectively its underlying logic minimizes redundancies. Solution architects or similar process experts (like business analysts) are experts in process design.
  3. UX designer(s) for customer experience design expertise – Good user experience (UX) design requires an end‑to‑end understanding of the customer journey and needs, with the help of targeted surveys, interviews, or even focus groups.
  4. The catalog manager for overall process management – The catalog manager’s role is similar to a program manager’s—they coordinate with different stakeholders to make prioritization decisions, define processes to maintain and scale the catalog, and track the right metrics to identify performance gaps.

Apart from the catalog manager, none of the other roles need to be full time. Think of these as different “thinking caps” that need to come together to design the service catalog. See Figure 1 for more on the service catalog design team roles and their individual and joint responsibilities.

Figure 1: Service catalog design team roles and responsibilities

Keep in mind that the design team members may not have equal rights to make changes directly to the ServiceNow® Service Catalog application. The system administrator on your team must carefully assign and monitor edit rights based on organizational context. At ServiceNow, we typically recommend creating three levels of editing rights:

  • Catalog administrator – Can manage the Service Catalog application, including catalogs, categories, and items and has overall administrative privileges to the Service Catalog app and all the catalogs defined within it
  • Catalog manager – Can edit and update a service catalog, as well as the categories and catalog items within the catalog; can assign editors and a different manager for the service catalog
  • Catalog editor – Can edit and update a service catalog, including its categories and catalog items; can assign other editors but cannot change the catalog manager

Define the measures of success for your service catalog

The ideal service request catalog provides a great, effortless experience for its customers and helps improve provisioning processes for efficiency. Unfortunately, there are number of different barriers that hinder the catalog’s ability to deliver on this objective.

On the other hand, view every upgrade as an opportunity to identify these barriers and remove them to improve your service catalog design. The upgrade is your chance to revisit your service catalog’s value proposition.

So start fresh by asking a few questions to understand the keys measures of success for your new catalog rather than building on your existing catalog functionality.

Who are your service request catalog’s customers? The customers of your service request catalog fall into three groups: end users, service fulfillers, and support reps:

  • End users (internal employees or customers) – These are your primary customers of the service catalog. They log on to the catalog (or the portal) for their day‑to‑day needs. Their needs and expectations vary based on their different personas and roles.
  • Service fulfillers – The fulfillers rely on the catalog to get key information on customer requests, to ensure the correct team receives the requests, and to set the right fulfillment expectations with customers.
  • Support representatives – Support reps are an important set of customers for your service request catalog as well. End users often reach out directly to support reps for their needs, and it’s the support rep who logs customer requests into the catalog or uses the catalog to track requests or answer customer questions.

Instead of skewing the design toward end users or fulfillers only, equally consider the perspective of all three customer groups for your catalog design.

What are your customers’ needs, pain points, and delight factors? To understand customer needs and pain points, try getting into your customer shoes to empathize with their experiences. We recommend conducting in‑depth user studies—in the form of interviews, surveys, or focus groups—with all three customer groups to dive deeper into their experiences and needs. Focus not just on their pain points but also on what they like about their current method of placing service requests.

Use Table 1 as a framework to document your findings.

Table 1: Framework for documenting customer feedback (shown with examples)

Note: As part of the design team, the catalog manager must work with the service owners and in‑house UX experts to identify and document customer needs (see Figure 1 for more details). The service owners have a deep understanding of their customers and are best suited to identify whom to engage to conduct user studies. And UX experts are best suited for conducting these studies and coming up with actionable recommendations.

What measures of success would help track the catalog’s ability to meet customer needs and create greater efficiency? When you understand your customers’ needs and pain points—from the perspective of end users, service fulfillers, and support reps—you can identify the barriers between you and superior customer experience and an efficient catalog. Your design objective is to remove these barriers. Many organizations understand this and define clear design objectives. This puts you on the right path, but you must always define the measures of success associated with those objectives as well.

Create a set of quantifiable measures of success that you can track regularly to highlight trends and gaps in your catalog performance. These measures of success serve as triggers for the design team to make corrections—and progress—toward your long‑term catalog vision and goals.

There are two catalog goals you should definitely include (but feel free to tailor them to meet your business and customer needs): an effortless UX and provisioning efficiency.

Effortless customer experience design objectives:

  • Make the catalog one‑stop‑shop for all customer requests
    Measure of success – All service requests are offered through the catalog
  • Improve search
    Measure of success – Low Customer Effort Score
  • Clarify delivery expectations
    Measure of success – Reduced support calls for information and updates on requests made
  • Improve satisfaction
    Measure of success – High Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Provisioning efficiency design objectives:

  • Increased self‑service
    Measures of success – Increased call deflection; reduced cost per request
  • Streamline processes
    Measure of success – Faster time to provision; faster issue diagnosis
  • Improve predictability
    Measures of success – Reduction in manual steps or touchpoints; majority of requests fulfilled within expected SLAs
  • Consolidate tools
    Measure of success – All requests and services are tracked and fulfilled through the catalog
Expert Tip


To secure senior management buy‑in on the objectives identified for your service catalog design, highlight how these objectives help managers see the expected value from their Now Platform investment. With senior management buy‑in, it’s easier to build stakeholder consensus and scale the catalog across the organization to deliver on these objectives.

Create a plan to incrementally apply the new design on catalog items

Taking a big bang approach to the design of the entire service catalog is ambitious. However, it can take months to get everyone’s buy‑in on the new design and process the multiple quality and technical issues that pop up (especially if your design is not well tested before delivery). When you use a big bang approach, you often miss opportunities to collect and act on the lessons you would otherwise learn by following a more iterative approach.

Instead, prioritize catalog items based on their value (for the business and customers) and their fulfillment process complexity. Apply the new catalog design incrementally to create a design process focused on continuous improvement.

Use this three‑phase plan to scale your catalog design.

Design phase 1 – Set fundamental design principles and deliver with a small set of high‑value, low‑complexity catalog items

  • Create the fundamental service catalog design principles: a top‑level structure and fulfillment workflow standards (see Stage 2 and Stage 3).
  • Prioritize high‑value, low‑complexity catalog items to validate and test the new design.

Design phase 2 – Refine the design with lessons learned and extend it to other high‑value catalog items

  • Incorporate lessons learned and customer feedback in the design process.
  • Extend the catalog design to high‑complexity, high‑value catalog items.
  • Simplify the process for service providers to maintain and update catalog items (see Stage 4).

Design phase 3 – Ensure everything in the catalog follows the new design principles, and formalize governance and maintenance for continuous improvement

  • Create a continuous improvement process to proactively upgrade the catalog design based on lessons learned and customer feedback.
  • Define processes to evaluate and incorporate nonstandard business requests into the existing functionality (see Stage 3).
  • Formalize and document the design process to help service fulfillers and service consumers adopt the new design.

As a rule of thumb, prioritize your catalog items with the highest transaction volume and the least complex fulfillment process for design phase 1. But first, categorize the catalog items for prioritization based on a comprehensive assessment of their underlying value (both from the end user’s and the provider’s perspective) and fulfillment complexity. Figure 2 shows some common catalog item categories and how you might prioritize them.

Figure 2: A 2X2 categorization matrix for visually prioritizing catalog items

Instead of including all high‑value catalog items for design, prioritize them under the “quick wins” category—these are your low‑complexity and high‑value items. Demonstrate the value of the new design through these catalog items, solicit feedback and lessons learned, and only then scale them to other high‑value, high‑complexity catalog items.  

For catalog items in the “target for investment category,” which are your high‑complexity, high‑value items, look for ways you can simplify or automate the process to minimize its complexity before you apply the new design. Deprioritize all other catalog items until the new catalog design is stable and well tested.   

To assess the value and complexity associated with a catalog item, identify a comprehensive set of factors based on the item’s value and complexity, and then score them consistently across all your catalog items and stakeholder groups. Table 2 shows an example scorecard.  

Table 2: A scorecard example to measure the value and complexity associated with creating a workflow for a catalog item

For more information on evaluating self‑service use cases, and for a similar score card, read our best practice guide on improving self‑service.

Note: When you take an incremental approach, it doesn’t necessarily mean customers have to log on to two separate platforms for similar requests (for example, using two platforms to request a new PC and to request a corporate phone line). This is not a great customer experience. Instead, include all catalog items in the customer‑facing view (i.e., the Service Portal) of the catalog and maintain the legacy request management approach for back‑end catalog items that don’t have the new design applied to them yet. You can do this easily using an execution plan instead of creating sophisticated workflows.

Sample service consumer interview questions

Sample service consumer interview questions

  • What do you immediately do when you need to _____________?
  • Where do you look for alternatives?
  • I saw that you did __________. Can you explain what you were trying to accomplish?
  • What do you do when you get stuck on a screen or a step in the process?
  • Can you walk me through the _______________ process again?
  • Where do you most often bump into challenges when trying to complete ___________?
  • What frustrates you most about your current process?


Sample service consumer interview questions

Sample service consumer interview questions

  • What do you immediately do when you need to _____________?
  • Where do you look for alternatives?
  • I saw that you did __________. Can you explain what you were trying to accomplish?
  • What do you do when you get stuck on a screen or a step in the process?
  • Can you walk me through the _______________ process again?
  • Where do you most often bump into challenges when trying to complete ___________?
  • What frustrates you most about your current process?


Tools and resources

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