Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Evolution of best practices

I would like to begin by thanking all of you who have contributed to this blog by posting comments and sending me feedback. It is your involvement that will make this blog site a successful venue of knowledge, networking and new ideas. So please feel free to contribute with your comments, questions and feedback as well as suggestions for topics for future posts.

A suggestion I have for making maximum use of this blog is to research on the net what may be new to you that I mention in my posts. The same is true for anything that you may not fully understand. While I strive to express myself in as lucid a manner as possible, it is well beyond the scope of a blog site to provide extensive training in technical issues. A great deal of information is quite easily and freely available for your perusal on the internet.

For this week’s post, I would like to present my thoughts on the evolution of process standards and the subsequent need for us to be constantly learning and updating our skills.

An interesting fact that most people are not aware of is that IT is a relatively young industry. When compared to the automobile industry which has been around for about 150 years or steel manufacturing which has been around for centuries, we can appreciate the relative immaturity of the IT industry.

It was merely a few decades ago that the company destined to be Apple Inc was being operated in a garage by two men with vision (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs). Clearly they were not following Six Sigma or CMMI in their garage office at that time. So, in spite of the chaos and inefficiency that is synonymous with IT, the industry has come a long way in a short time. A little known fact is that all industries have been through an initial period of chaos and confusion during their youth. It is, therefore, entirely natural that the IT industry faces the challenges that it does today. However, it is up to us, its practitioners, to guide it through its immaturity to more stable times. This can only be accomplished by constant learning and application on our part.The dynamics of the evolution of process standards is shown in the figure below (as always, please click the picture for a larger view).

It all starts with an organization’s desire to rise above the competition. This results in innovative techniques being researched and developed. Organizations might also collaborate with academic bodies that conduct the relevant research (e.g. the SEI at Carnegie-Mellon University) and other professional institutions (PMI, ASQ, etc.).
If experimental implementations of these innovative techniques yields positive results, the techniques are put into practice on a regular basis at that organization. Typically at this stage, only a few organizations have adopted these techniques on a regular basis. The techniques are called “best practices” at this time.

Over time, other organizations also adopt these techniques which are then known as “good practices” or “generally accepted principles”. They might even be adopted by governments and other regulatory bodies as “regulatory requirements”.
Finally, the techniques are widely implemented and commonplace. At this stage, they are known as “ordinary traits” and are usually taken for granted by all stakeholders including customers.

In order to rise above the competition (since everyone is now implementing these “ordinary traits”), organizations research and develop new techniques. The process, in this fashion, continues endlessly.

We see this phenomenon in practice with popular certifications: ITIL has recently switched from version 2 to version 3 and no doubt there will be versions 4 and 5 in the future. Most certifications expire after 3 years for this very reason. Also, organizations with their own proprietary methodologies regularly improve and update with the passage of time.

All this indicates one very simple reality: all IT professionals must keep constantly learning and updating their knowledge and skills. While this may be disgruntling to some who thought that their education was complete after their college commencement ceremony, fact is that constant learning has to be a part if life for all. My suggestion is to take on this obligation positively with an attitude of fun and curiosity at what’s new in the world of IT processes. This is the way, I, myself have studied and improved over the years.

By making it fun.

And I invite you to do the same.


  1. Hi Vivek,

    Great post. I totally agree that we will have to constantly be updating our selves.
    I will keep visiting here. That should help, right?
    Keep up the good work.

    John Hawes

  2. Vivek,

    Your site is very informative.
    Could you talk about the characteristics and structure of a process in a future post?