An introduction to the four dimensions of ITIL 4


What are the four dimensions?
External factors
Summary


What are the four dimensions?

To have a fully integrated service management framework that supports the entire service value system (SVS), ITIL 4 defines a set of four dimensions that as a whole are key in creating stakeholder and customer value (by virtue of delivering products and services in an effective and efficient manner). The four dimensions are relevant to, and impact upon, all elements of the SVS, and are as follows:

These four dimensions influence all elements of the service value chain and all of the ITIL 4 practices. If, when executing activities within the service value chain and practices, due consideration is not given to all of the four dimensions, it has the potential to have a negative impact on the services; either they may become undeliverable, or quality and/or efficiency may be deemed to have failed to meet the necessary requirements. Typical examples of issues that may arise include duplication of effort, unnecessary work or re-work taking place, cross-party conflicts occurring, etc.

At the same time, there are also external factors that may constrain or influence the four dimensions. For example, a lack of communication in respect of partners and suppliers could lead to outsourced services no longer being aligned with the requirements of the organisation. How the four dimensions operate is completely flexible and has no rigid structure, but will be dependent on the specific circumstances of what is being performed and the influencing factors at an organisational level.

As the four dimensions apply to all services, it is key that all aspects of them are considered at the appropriate time. For example, when performing the initial service design, or later in its life when looking at implementing improvements. This is true for the wider SVS, with day-to-day management and improvement also needing the four dimensions to be taken into consideration.


External factors

Any organisation that is providing a service will not be able to operate in a manner detached from everything else happening around it. External factors of many types will likely have an influence on the delivery and operation of services, and along with working in ever-changing and complex environments, may result in the imposition of constraints that need to be effectively managed. These external factors need to be identified and analysed in order to determine how each will influence how organisational resources are configured and how the four dimensions will be addressed.

Some of the external factors to be considered include:

  • Governmental and societal attitudes (e.g. the environment)
  • Economic and societal factors (e.g. differing consumer requirements across multiple global territories)
  • Legal and regulatory stipulations (e.g. data protection laws)

Summary

The four dimensions, when applied together, provide an integrated approach to service management. There should be an even balance of focus between each of them along with due consideration of the external factors as mentioned above. All will need to be kept under constant review as they evolve, in particular as emerging trends, technologies and opportunities arise, and an alignment maintained with original objectives and requirements.

The SVS of an organisation needs to have equal consideration across all four dimensions (plus external factors) and a fair balance sustained across them all. Failure to do so can lead to the quality of products and services being compromised.


Further information on the items covered in this section can be found in the book ITIL® Foundation, ITIL 4 edition, chapter 3.