Reader Question: What are the best practices for categorizing the requests in a Request Catalog?
Third Sky Expert Answer:
Kai Holthaus, Director of Consulting, Third Sky
In a previous article, I've highlighted how to implement a Request Catalog, allowing users to simply fill out a request form, and have the fulfillment happen 'behind the curtain', and the result of the request show up for the user. For example, a user could simply fill out form with their employee ID and a business justification to request a cell phone, which would be delivered to their desk only a day or two later, depending on the actual fulfillment processes, and whether the business justification was accepted by the process or not.
But how do you organize such requests, in order to present them to users in a way that makes it as easy as possible to for them to find the request they are looking for? For inspiration, one can look to other catalogs, for instance mail order catalogs that some companies send to your home mailbox.
The easiest option to present all the different requests that can be submitted is a list for the user to browse, such as an alphabetic list. This can be compared to the index of a mail order catalog, typically found in the back.
The second option would be to categorize the requests, similar to the way that a mail order catalog is categorized. In a clothing mail order catalog, one might find female clothing first, followed by male clothing and children's clothing. Within the male clothing, there could be suits first, followed by sports coats, shirts and pants. These would represent sub-categories in a Request Catalog. When implementing a Request Catalog, one could start with the categories that were defined for the Service Catalog, for instance "End-User Services", followed by sub-categories such as "Communication", "Collaboration", or "Desktop Support Services".
However, while a service in a Service Catalog usually only shows up within one category or sub-category, things can be different in the Request Catalog. Different users may look for different service requests in different locations. Take for instance a distribution list request. This is clearly email-related, so the request should show up in the "Communication" category. But someone might think that a distribution list is really a collaboration tool, so it should also be listed in the Collaboration category. In fact, the recommendation would be to list requests in all the categories that make sense, to allow users different paths to the requests they are looking for.
Such a hierarchy can, however, become overwhelming for the user. Therefore, the old adage of "KISS" (Keep it simple, stupid!) should be applied. Another remedy would be to allow users to search for requests, by assigning key words to each request, and offering search functionality for the Request Catalog.
With these three options - browseable list(s), categorized listings, and search functionality, you will provide the vast majority of users a way to find the requests they need.