The four dimensions of service management podcast
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1h 57m




- [Dave] Hi everyone and welcome back to the QA ITIL4 Podcast. I'm joined once again by Paul Wigzel and Martin Waters,  my name is Dave and today we're talking about he Four Dimensions of Service Management. This is a really interesting topic, I'm really excited to learn more about it and I hope you are too. The first question is what are the Four Dimensions of Service Management, and how do they fit in to the ITIL framework?


- [Martin] Ok, in ITIL4, one of the fundamental ideas, is that as we try to transform and move to a more value focused service based organizational structure, we have things like the guiding principles that we can all relate to. As we try and and do any given service or manage a whole spectrum of services that we do really the Four Dimensions of Service Management, this is where they come in because it's like four perspectives we need to be consciously aware of, when we're trying to steer and manage the services. And those four perspectives are, in no particular order, Organizations and People, so very much thinking from a human perspective. Another dimension is Information Technology and that includes the IT technologies we're using to drive and enable the business and the information that were both coursing through the veins of that technology but also the information we're having to use to manage the technology as well. Another Dimension is Partners and Suppliers, because no organization is an island we depend on so many other partners and suppliers for our services and business. And the other Dimension is Value Streams and Processes. As we've seen and will see in ITIL4, Value Streams is how we concoct specific examples of activity, as how we're going to achieve a given output for the organization, will it be how we manage an incident or a change etc. Value streams and processes often give us a lot detail about what's expected of staff and their individual roles. But these Four Dimensions affect really every service, and they give us like a supporting model by which we can often drive a lot of service success.


- [Paul] When I think about the Four Dimensions, I'm conscious I do a lot of consulting around business relationship management, and we talk about the house of business relationship. We talk about the roof and the supporting columns. I see the Four Dimensions as almost columns supporting the overall house. You can't just do it thinking about the people, you can't deliver a great service if you're only considering the people. You can't just deliver a good service if you're only considering the IT. You can't just deliver good service if you're only considering who you're going to partner with and who your suppliers are. You need to have all three of those columns and also need to have the overarching column if you like, the value streams and processes. What is it that we're trying to achieve? Going back to our guiding principles, I'm going to keep it simple. I see the outcome or the output we're delivering to our consumers as being the roof, and the Four Dimensions are the cornerstones, the pillar points, we've got to think about all four of those, because if we fail to think about one, we still get a structure, but it's slightly insecure, it's slightly weak. And of course the less we think about each of the four dimensions, the weaker the structure becomes, there's no point in having one really really strong pillar if the others are weak, they need to be given equal credibility.


- [Dave] So would you say that if you want to compare the Four Dimensions with the Guiding Principles, the difference between them is that the Guiding Principles are more about best practice in the services that we deliver and the Four Dimensions are about the wider picture from an organizations perspective and making sure that all the key areas of focus are paid enough attention.


- [Paul] I think that's a fair assessment of it. The whole point of the Four Dimensions is that they're used throughout service management, but yes it's about focusing your attention and saying "Have we thought about eachof those four areas?", and the Guiding Principles would influence each of the four dimensions.


- [Dave] So you could apply any one of the Guiding Principles to any one of those Four Dimensions?


- [Paul, Martin] Absolutely.


- [Martin] Adding on top of that, part of the conscious thinking of the Four Dimensions of Service Management, as Paul correctly said, is trying to understand and almost eliminate the over-focus on one or two or three of those areas, to the detriment of the other remaining areas of the Four Dimensions, because if we do that, if we fall in to that poor practice, usually what will come out of that is that services will fail, whether it's an operable service going dead and that gives siginificant harm to the business, or the quality of those services is eroded below the customers and the end organizational need. There's so many examples of this in the real world. Myself and Paul were discussing the other week, one of the major international airlines, they had a global outage of their check-in service back in 2017, and that impacted all global check-in which is obviously a core activity for any international airline.  And the fundamentals behind that and why the check-in service was unavailable is not because the technology wasn't correct - the technology dimension was understood, it was architected that the technology could cope with a failure within their data centers - but where they misunderstood in their situation was the importance of the people dimension because part of restoring a natural failure of power which can occur for many technical reasons, one of their engineers who was allowed to be on-site, went off procedure, and did not restore power in the correct way to that facility.  That made the system wholscale worse, actually led to physical damage to the data center and that then corrupted other remaining data centers and that gave rise to a worldwide outage of check-in to that airline. 75,000 customers of that airline were affected by the nature of that outage. I'm sure that organization was thinking they've got the technology, they've got the processes and the value streams, the partnerships and suppliers are all in play, but they'd missed the importance of the people, and the organizational people dimension. It's only real world examples like that come home to roost, it makes you reflect on how critical, as Paul mentioned, these four pillars are in any service based organization.


- [Paul] Adding to what Martin's saying, if you're building a new service, or let's say a new video and tv streaming organization, you can understand the value for people that can download, or stream movies, or tv or radio or podcasts like this one, at any time that they want to and listen at their convenience. So you can understand the value and the process of how they can do that - they can go on and subscribe - so you can create that service requirement, for want of a better description.  You can talk to and work with the partners and suppliers and know whether you're going to go with the BBC if yo uhappen to be in Europe or whether you're going to go with ABC in the States - you can pick up the partners and suppliers and you could start to work with those. You can think about the information technology - about whether you're going to work on tablets or mobile devices, or purely desktop machines or all of the above - but don't lose sight of the things like the people or the organization. How is the organization going to be structured.  How are the customers going to interact with the people.  We've all bought services, and I'm sure we're aware we've all bought services from organizations which deliver a fantastic value, which deliver brilliant service until it goes wrong. And then we can't speak to anybody. Or you work in an organization where it's overly heavy with management and there's nobody actually doing the job. Or conversely you've got some brilliant people but the technology isn't strong enough to support the service. So what we're talking about is having these Four Dimensions and giving them equal strength, and making sure that we consider all four in order to deliver a good quality holistic service to our consumers which in turn delivers them value by delivering the outcome to them.


- [Dave] I think what you've both touched on with those fantastic examples is that really ITIL4 is not just some sort of theoretical framework that you might do a course on, and then you've got a certificate and then off you go and never think about it again - actually this is a highly applicable, extremely useful framework that we can use to analyse in retrospect things that have happened to major companies, but of course also that we can apply to our own businesses to think we can become the best service providers that we can be.


- [Paul] Absolutely.  I think if you look in to that, that's exactly what happens. You become more analytical, the more you understand ITIL4 and the more you understand the Four Dimensions, the more analytical you become about organization and the more you can actually see they're focusing on value streams and information technology, but they've missed the partners and suppliers or the partners and suppliers are weaker, or the organization is not quite there, the people are not quite at the level should be as in Martins example - the people aren't following the processes that were drawn out by the organization.


- [Martin] And I think also we got to be conscious these days with the pressures that are there in every organizations to deliver, and deliver services, new services, chain services, so much quicker, but in that understandable pressure that exists pretty much in most businesses, I think the failure point is that we get so caught up in that we do the technology.  Maybe do the partnerships, piece as well, but again we're not thinking about all of those Four Dimensions constantly enough to see that potential trap almost creeping up on us that we can fall in to. That we've misunderstood the effects by changing the products arena that impacts the information technology that impacts on the people arena, and vice versa. And therefore the Four Dimensions of Service Management is like a guiding model, and is something that is not only hopefully going to prevent us not only from falling in to traps but also be more successful when we do new services.


- [Paul] But we do also have to recognize that we're not all working in a nirvana environment where we can do exactly and everything that we want to, exactly at the time we want to so when we talk about the Four Dimensions, there are areas of politics, there are areas of economy, there are social factors that are going to influence those, as well as the technology and the move towards technology, we've also got legislation that might affect what we're doing and what's going on in our environment, be that an environment with a small 'e', the environment we are working in, or the environment globally. So we recognize that we've got these four pillars or we recognize these Four Dimensions - I'll stop calling them pillars - these Four Dimensions that we have to consider, but we also need to recognize that there are six or more influences to those pillars that are external for any organization that have to be bore in mind.


- [Dave] But, yes there are these external factors, and yes there are internal pressures as well as you mentioned Martin, but it seems to me that ITIL4 kind of gives the tools that you need to address those with the Guiding Principles again. As long as you keep it simple, you start where you are, you build iteratively, you're always looking to focus on that idea of keeping the, sorry what was it - to keeping the idea on quality?


- [Paul] yes, looking at the value


- [Dave] And so on. When you apply those principles to each of those domains and you always bear those in mind, they seem to work really well hand in hand.


- [Martin] I agree, and very much, the Four Dimensions of Service Management kind of thinking here of ITIL4 - this model - which can be applied to any service or the whole of the system of how we manage the services, this absolutely accords with many of those guiding principles, particularly the think and work holistically guiding principle because that's how we get out of silo thinking and we see how we are part of this kind of bigger system. And consideration of these dimensions very much keeps us in that holistical and collaborative and co-operative working practices. And therefore we focus on value and we drive success in the organization.


- [Dave] The listener won't be able to necessarily see the diagram we're looking at here as we sit around this table, but that is exactly how this diagram has been drawn as well. Each dimension is kind of overlapping with the others, and the external factors are circling around the outside of the diagram, you know I think illustrating that idea that this is one system, with many things that impact it for sure, but actually they are four parts of a collective whole that really help to drive service management.


- [Paul] Yeah absolutely, and neither of them have greater prominence and they're not done in order.


- [Dave] Fantastic. Well I think you've satisfied my curiosity regarding the Four Dimensions, so thank you guys for your time today, and I will hopefully get to talk to you again soon.


About the Author

Martin is a professionally qualified and experienced IT Professional with over 25 years of experience in the IT industry. He has held a number of senior roles and has experience of large-scale IT Service Management implementation programs both in public and private sectors. He has over 15 years of experience working for QA as both a Senior principal lecturer/consultant and as Head of Service Management Product Development. Martin has delivered training to a wide variety of audiences, both UK and internationally, to consistently high levels of customer satisfaction.

His main role at QA is acting as a Head of Service Management Product Development to enable QA to deliver high quality, interactive training in the following areas:

  • Delivering a wide range of public ITIL, SIAM, and BRM courses
  • Delivering onsite ITIL and SIAM courses
  • Developing high-quality QA authored Service Management courses and courseware across all delivery mechanisms including classroom, e-learning, and virtual
  • Working with Industry partners to develop new curricula and courses – Recent examples include ITIL Practitioner and the BCS EXIN SIAM Foundation qualifications