The Higher Education IT Service Catalog: A Working Model for Comparison and Collaboration, Second Edition


EDUCAUSE published the working group paper "The Higher Education IT Service Catalog: A Working Model for Comparison and Collaboration" in April 2015.1  More than four years later, many institutions are using the IT service catalog it describes. However, due to the rapidly changing landscape of information technology and the natural gaps that occur in a first edition, some institutions found that they needed to modify and adapt the model to suit their needs. This updated version uses feedback from those implementations and the people who created them to address as many of these gaps as possible.

An IT Service Catalog Model for Higher Education

Although every institution of higher education is unique, our technology service organizations share many goals, challenges, and opportunities. One common challenge is how to best represent the IT services we provide in a format that is intelligible to and resonates with our community while also serving as an effective structure for service operations and improvement. The IT service catalog is in many ways the front door of IT and provides the foundation for IT service management capabilities.

It is important to note that the term "service catalog" is widely used as a useful framework for publishing all manner of service information, including human resources, benefits, finance, facilities, and other service areas. This paper provides a model of a service catalog, and where this paper mentions a service catalog, it should be understood to mean specifically an IT service catalog. In instances where it has a wider meaning, this will be made explicit.

The implementation of a service catalog is an important step in transforming from a technology-oriented organization into a service-oriented organization and enables the organizational focus to shift from technology components to services that facilitate institutional outcomes. It is a vehicle used to communicate and provide clarity to constituents about the IT services available to them; to help improve customer relations by sharing information and setting expectations; and to improve service portfolio planning so IT investments and activities better align with institutional needs. The number of colleges and universities offering a service catalog has grown, but for those just starting work in this area, developing a catalog can be a lengthy and difficult process.

The model service catalog presented in this paper identifies IT services and associated taxonomies common across many higher education institutions and incorporates components successfully used in existing service catalogs. Using this model might help jumpstart a service catalog initiative and enable its rapid adoption.

A consistent and standardized approach also serves to create a shared language and platform to facilitate service comparison and benchmarking across IT organizations within institutions of higher education. Standardized terms, categories, attributes, and approaches to organizing services will educate community members new to IT service management and introduce concepts such as the difference between a "service" and a "service request."

The goal of this paper is to leverage existing standards, frameworks, and best practices—as well as our collective experience—to articulate issues and challenges related to the service catalog process within higher education, thereby creating a guide to enable more efficient and effective navigation of service catalog maturity within the higher education community. This paper highlights the nexus of the service catalog and higher education—where the two overlap and how one might approach points of complexity.

What This Paper Does

  • Introduces the concept of an IT service catalog. This paper offers a general-purpose framework for an IT service catalog. The terminology used in this document is presented independently of any ITSM frameworks (e.g., ITIL, COBIT, TQM). Terms such as "service offering" are used to illustrate the concepts, relationships, and recommendations provided.
  • Provides a model IT service catalog for those beginning their service catalog journey. It is intended to cover the majority of any institution’s requisite content. Adopters should compare and contrast this model to their unique institutional goals and service environment and adapt the model as necessary.
  • Highlights and provides specific guidance regarding the necessary components of an effective service catalog, such as the taxonomy, terminology, attributes, and descriptions for common IT services.
  • Focuses on the unique needs of the higher education community. It provides a framework that organizes the most common services in higher education IT into an initial catalog. It also includes a discussion regarding service catalog views that considers various internal and external audiences.
  • Provides a means for benchmarking and comparing across standardized service catalogs at peer institutions.

What This Paper Does Not Do

  • Instruct how to implement the entire service catalog management process. This document provides some basic "getting started" direction and considerations, but complete service catalog management is a complex topic beyond the scope of this document.
  • Attempt to go beyond IT services to cover all the business or external customer-facing services a higher education institution provides (e.g., housing, registration, facilities, police).
  • Provide example catalogs or use cases. Although they are interesting, example catalogs and use cases from institutions that implemented versions of the catalog described in this paper are beyond the scope of this document.

What Has Changed in This Revision

This revision benefits from feedback from many institutions that either used or referenced the 2015 model in their service catalog implementation. The core changes are focused on the service catalog categories themselves, while only minor edits and adjustments were made throughout the rest of the paper.2  The table below provides an overview of the differences between the two versions of the paper:

2015 Document Sections 2019 Revision Changes
Introduction Updated to include the impetus for this revision and what changes have been made.
Higher Education Challenges Minor copyedits only.
Related Concepts: Portfolio, Catalog, and Requests Moved into a new section, "Understanding the Service Catalog." Minor copyedits as well as new guidance on how to use this model.
The Structure of This Model Renamed "The Higher Education IT Service Catalog." Substantial changes made to the service categories (see the appendix).
Service Catalog: Views and Audiences Moved from the end of the paper to the new section "Understanding the Service Catalog" for better understanding.
Now That We've Built It, How Do We Maintain It? Deleted. The original section did not provide enough guidance to be useful.
Conclusion Edited to reflect current revision.

The changes incorporated into this edition reflect many of the major changes to the IT landscape since the first edition and attempt to anticipate upcoming changes so that future technologies and services will fit seamlessly into this framework. The catalog provides support for services housed on-premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid of the two. It has better accommodation for security and privacy in higher education. It has been expanded to account for changes in how IT staffs support services in a changing landscape where more and more services (particularly cloud services) can technically be procured and implemented without traditional IT enterprise infrastructure. People generally expect more self-service tools, and IT personnel often provide consulting in conjunction with, or instead of, the actual technology.

© 2019 EDUCAUSE. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Citation for this work
Adižes Jacobs, Tamara, et al. The Higher Education IT Service Catalog: A Working Model for Comparison and Collaboration. EDUCAUSE working group paper. Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE, November 2019.


  1. See the PDF for the first edition, "The Higher Education IT Service Catalog: A Working Model for Comparison and Collaboration," available from the research hub.

  2. A detailed list of changes can be found in Appendix I.