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What is a Service Portfolio?

Nov. 14, 2012
Michael Scarborough

ITIL describes a service portfolio as a collection of the overall set of services managed by a service provider. A service portfolio describes a service provider’s boundaries and promises across all of the customers and market spaces it serves. I like to think of a service portfolio as describing the past, present, and future collection of services offered by a service provider. The figure below shows a high-level view of a service portfolio.

There are three components of a service portfolio: service pipeline, service catalogue, and retired services.

Real-world pipelines convey or transport things. ITIL’s service pipeline shows what’s coming in terms of the future of the organization. It consists of new services that are in various stages of design and development. Services may enter and fall out of the pipeline based upon changes in market conditions or other factors. Pipelines are generally not exposed to customers and users (under some conditions they might be). The service pipeline is the future.

The service catalogue is similar to a menu. It describes an organization’s operational (or near-operational) services. Service catalogue shows me what I can get now from a service provider, as well as the terms and conditions associated with any services provided. The service catalogue is the present.

Retired services show services that were once in live operation but have become obsolete or are no longer profitable. Retired services are maintained because market conditions might change and a service that was once obsolete might be needed again. Retired services are the past.

A service portfolio might not exist in an organization as a formal “thing,” but it’s ideal if it does. However, with or without a service portfolio, customers, users, and other stakeholders develop perceptions about what a service provider has in its pipeline, catalogue, and collection of retired services.

Perceptions can be dangerous and wildly wrong, which is why ITIL recommends that service providers build a formal service portfolio, with a formal representation of the pipeline, catalogue, and retired services. This formal portfolio should be actively managed and items moving into and through the portfolio only do so under controlled conditions and processes.