What We Need is a Great Big Melting Pot – of Best Practices

This post was inspired by a recent article by Ken Gonzalez entitled ‘Best Practice: Are We Missing The Point?’

A discussion followed Ken’s posting on Back2ITSM and the question was posed ‘Why don’t organisations choose the appropriate practices from all of the best practices available and apply them to improve service delivery?’

I have an idea or two!

I said in response to Ken’s posting that I am working with a client that recently stated ‘We are not doing ITIL any more. We are going to do COBIT instead’. I am sure you can imagine my reaction to that statement!

Unfortunately it is all too common. There seems to be a persistent belief that you choose one framework or methodology to work with and that it will meet all your needs.

There are a raft of frameworks and methodologies to choose from. Take your pick – ITIL®, COBIT®, OBASHI®, DevOps, P3O®, MSPV, Prince2®, PMBOK®etc. Not to mention standards such as ISO/IEC 20000.

Melting PotSo, why pick one when you have a melting pot at your disposal? Many different elements “melting together” into a harmonious whole. A fusion of best practices that you can utilise to create your good practice.

I think there are a number of reasons we don’t create the melting pot and most likely not limited to these.

Zealots

Yes – they are still around. The zealots are those that have knowledge of one framework and insist on implementing it to the letter. They insist that there is only one way and it is their way. As Ken says in his article:

“Recommendations in a best practice framework should not be taken as “the one true way,” because they’re not. If they were, they’d be called operating instructions”.

It is the zealots that give best practice frameworks like ITIL a bad name because their implementation of them will not work as it has not been adapted or adopted for the needs of the organisation.

This is why when I initially meet with a client I use the generic term ‘service management best practices’ rather than using the name of one such as ITIL. If I do, inevitably the eyes will roll.

If you come across the zealot – beware. Your service management professional (whether internal or external to your organisation) should have many tools in the toolbox – not just one methodology. It’s no good bringing a hammer to fix a leaking pipe.

Awareness

I don’t believe at the moment that there is widespread awareness of how all of the best practices fit together and how they can complement each other. Perhaps there is justification in the creation of a best-practices foundation type course to introduce the IT professional (at all levels) to everything that is available to them and allow them to decide where to dig deeper based on their newly acquired wide-base of knowledge?

If the course was to be an accredited course it would have to be an independent accrediting organisation as the owners of best practices such as ITIL (i.e. Axelos) may not want to, or may not be allowed to, accredit a single course that contained other best practices such as COBIT owned by ISACA. I don’t know enough about the accreditation process so I am happy to be corrected here by those with far more knowledge than I.

Someone may already have this training course in their repertoire but when I searched Google with ‘ITSM best practice training’ or ‘ICT best practice training’ all the responses I received referenced one methodology or framework alone.

The best I know of is the Foundations for Professionals (FFP) program which packages up four foundation courses – ITIL, COBIT, ISO/IEC 20000 and OBASH into one program.

So the onus is on the IT professional to widen their knowledge of the available methodologies and frameworks – if only through research and reading. They can then determine the tools they need in their toolbox to complement those they already have.

Training

Many organisations will engage a training organisation to deliver on-site training to a large number of employees in either ITIL or COBIT etc. and stop at that. They may send their employees to off-site training having struck a deal with a training organisation for discount on bulk purchases. The organisation gets a large coverage and it is a considerable investment but is the approach right? Everyone may come back to work speaking the same language but it is only ONE language. Everyone has the same hammer to address all the issues within the organisation.

Organisations should invest in additional training in a variety of best practices so that they can create the melting pot. Diversification is key.

Although this is a further investment it a worthy one if the organisation is going to be able to reap the immense benefits of establishing good practice that actually meets and addresses the needs of the business. Refer my next point.

What is the Problem You Are Trying To Resolve or Opportunity to Realise?

I think this is the biggest stumbling block in the approach to adoption of best practice frameworks. Before deciding which framework or frameworks to utilise, we need to understand the problem we are trying to resolve or the opportunity we are trying to realise.

When we truly understand the challenge, with some knowledge, we can determine which of the best practice frameworks should be utilised to meet that challenge. Otherwise it’s like buying a monkey wrench before looking under the hood of the car only to realise that the problem is a loose screw requiring a Philips head screwdriver!

Attract and Retain Talent

Often organisations don’t look to either engage or employ the required talent for the adoption of a wide range of best practice methodologies and frameworks.

Having understood what best practices you are going to employ, you may have to get outside help. Often training alone does not equip employees to apply best practice and they may need some experienced guidance in the first instance.

The talent you attract may be external consultancy but ideally you may also look to recruit someone with the required skills into the organisation who can mentor and coach employees in the use of the chosen best practices.

Not only does demonstration of utilisation of a wide variety of best practices methodologies and frameworks help attract talent, it also serves to retain talent.

As authors Jordan Evans and Kaye say in their book Love `Em or Lose `Em: Getting Good People to Stay:

“Fifty years of research support that learning and growth are of paramount importance for job satisfaction. Every age group—from baby boomers to generation Xers—lists learning and growth opportunities as a top reason for keeping a job,”

Summary

So firstly, understand what it is you are trying to achieve. Provide some awareness to your IT staff of the various best practices available and then determine which will help you achieve your objectives. Get rid of the zealots!

Provide people with the training and exposure to these practices so that they can start to apply them. Get the talent you need to assist.

Of course, the next problem or opportunity you face may require different or additional best practices. Just keep adding to the melting pot to create that harmonious whole!

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