Who Needs Best Practices?

Ann All

At first blush, it's hard to find any downside in trying to be the "best" at anything.


Unless you are talking about IT operations, say some experts.


In an interview with IT Business Edge, Michael Warrilow, managing director of advisory firm Hydrasight, says CIOs would be wise to view best practices as an ideal rather than a specific or realistic target. Noting that IT organizations are always being asked to do more with less, he notes that "there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that best practice will increase the cost of IT operations within the vast majority of organizations, and hence increase the risk of doing less with more."


For many organizations, "good enough" is adequate for IT operations. Settling for "good enough" may mean more funds will become available to invest in more strategic initiatives, he says.


A ComputerPartner article offers a somewhat skeptical take on best practices, noting that they are hardly an IT cure-all. It's hard to get broad agreement on a definition for "best practices," it says. Many managers apply the term to broad concepts like governance mechanisms or, worse, management fads or buzzwords.


Not only that, but more complex and/or creative issues do not always lend themselves well to a best practices style of process optimization.


The author of a MarketingProfs article is even less enamored of best practices, saying that teams focused too closely on them often overlook more innovative approaches to problem solving. An emphasis on best practices has resulted in businesses that look and function alike because they copy each other rather than generating new ideas, he says.


This doesn't mean there isn't a place for best practice frameworks -- or, according to this Techworld article, for a couple of them. Such frameworks are "most effective when used in combination with one another," says a Forrester analyst quoted in the article.


A recommendation: Start with a framework such as COBIT or ITIL, then move on to certifiable standards such as ISO guidelines. Finally, use the Capability Maturity Model or Six Sigma to measure ongoing performance improvements.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 24, 2007 12:15 PM Stephen Hill Stephen Hill  says:
"Best" is not a realistic goal in any IT endeavor.  "Better" is the correct goal.  What needs to be documented is the latest in the process of getting better practices.The "Best Practices at the Moment" works even in the IT Operations environment.  The technology infux alone will drive changes to any process.So the approach is to have a process that states: "do it this way, unless you have a better way."  And then most importantly, create a culture that rewards creating a better way.Last, but not least, each new iteration of a "better practice" needs to get documented and shared.  The entire enterprise needs to be able to share and embrace the new better.  Reply

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