Surely not more Best Practice? by the Founder of ITIL

Surely not more best practice?

Sir Peter Gershon famously compared the amount of ‘best practice guidance’ he inherited when he set up the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), at hundreds of pages, unfavourably with the half page of the ten commandments. He wasn’t impressed. If there was all this best practice available, why was IT providers’ (and clients’) performance on the ground so patchy?

The current British government has also set its face against voluminous best practice. Its approach to procurement, for example, has been significantly ‘Leaned’.

So what on earth is the founder of ITIL, who was also the instigator of PRINCE2, doing foisting more best practice on an unsuspecting world? Some might even say he’s foisted more than enough already.

Correct, not more best practice!

Well, first and foremost I’m not trying to foist any more good practice guidance into the marketplace. There is more than enough of it in existence already.

What I am trying to promote, though, is overview:
• how do all the best-practice frameworks and standards fit together and do they between them cover the ground?
• what do professionals need to know about the big picture outside their own area of specialism with its own framework/s?
• which are the key current and upcoming frameworks where people’s limited time is best spent? which frameworks are just spent forces?

… and cohesion and coverage:
• can we (the IT industry) tackle the overlaps and underlaps?
• can we improve integration and interworking?
• can we plug the gaps?

I see IBPI as a catalyst for bringing about better understanding, cohesion and coverage. IBPI will not of itself be developing or amending frameworks to improve cohesion and coverage.

Do we need all the frameworks and standards? Isn’t it time to prune, not promote?

Yes a case can be made that there are too many frameworks competing with each other and intruding on each other’s space. That’s a very good reason for focusing on those that really matter.

In fact, do we need frameworks and standards at all?

In theory you could leave it to IT professionals to decide their own best practices. And leave it up to intelligent clients to control their providers as best they can based on their intellect and people-skills.

That would make it more difficult to train people and more difficult to assess their skills, harder for people to change employer, and it would generally make failure and disappointment more prevalent.

What the industry needs is greater positive impact from the frameworks that are used; and more coverage in difficult areas that are less amenable to codifying best practice into frameworks and standards.

Portfolio management challenge?

Some effort is already being put into framework coverage and cohesion, notably by ISO and other Standards bodies, as well as by framework owners themselves to some extent.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion, though, that more needs to be done to get the best out of an evolving portfolio of best-practice standards and frameworks.

This is a challenge for the whole IT industry and its clients:
• for framework owners to provide and promote genuine best practice and to work with others to optimise coverage and minimise overlaps and underlaps – collaborating not competing with the owners of other-domain frameworks for the greater good
• for exam institutes and training providers, to focus on growing people’s professionalism, not just on getting them through exams
• for framework owners and exam institutes, to foster cross-disciplinary training to complement the specialist training at which they already excel
• for users (provider and client) to demand and deploy global-standard industry frameworks; to see to it they benefit from doing so and to shout loudly if the frameworks industry isn’t delivering for them.

At IBPI, we aren’t just articulating the challenge – a challenge that exists whether we raise it or not. We’d like your help as stakeholders to shine a torch on the industry’s frameworks and to harness framework provider and user interest in getting up in the helicopter and improving on the landscape below!

What’s in it for IBPI?

IBPI exists primarily to do good: to improve professionalism. If in doing that we also help build our sponsors‘ reputation and standing, so much the better.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my working life on activities intended for the greater good: for better value-for-money for the UK taxpayer, particularly from the government’s expenditure on buying goods and services and on harnessing IT.

I consider it an honour to contribute to IBPI’s drive to add value to IT best practice by catalysing synergy across our industry’s frameworks and standards – and thereby to help improve professionalism and value-for-money for those providing and using IT.

I’d love to hear your opinions.