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Is "Good Enough" Good Enough?

Have you remodeled a home, added a deck, a spare room or even committed to general contracting your own home? If so, you are very familiar with building standards and codes. And certainly, given that experience, you recognize the value of codes and standards: They exist for a reason. Codes enforce standards to ensure safety, zoning and aesthetic requirements. Codes and standards are enforced to assure personal safety, durability and resilience of the building design. To comply with those codes and standards it is likely you would have interviewed and hired professionals such as plumbers, builders, electricians, carpenters, HVAC specialists, and other professionals experienced in design and construction, that understand the codes, and at a minimum, adhere to them. These professionals likely would have had first-hand knowledge of correct building and construction techniques. My guess: You did not hire the guy that said his construction methods would be “good enough”. Instead, you looked to those professionals you trust to ensure a sound foundation for your new room addition, deck or house.

Though not a standard, ITIL® best practices have much in common with building codes. Like building codes ITIL® best practices:

  • Are based on what has proven to work to ensure infrastructure processes are designed to support the infrastructure. 
  • Are present to provide the basic, minimal guidance to build upon. 
  • Seek to provide minimum guidance in process design essential to support your infrastructure.
  • Minimize risk of operational failure.
  • Enforce controls to facilitate measurement and management of IT services.
  • Require the expertise of an IT Service Management professional to execute.

Taking the home improvement analogy to another level, let’s say you need to install a closet pole. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. One method might be to line up the closet pole bracket and screw the bracket directly into the drywall. Very quickly you will have a closet pole that is functional. For a while, anyway, it is “good enough” to hold clothes right up to that point at which you add that last heavy winter coat. Then, unexpectedly, the bracket will pull the screws out of the drywall and the pole will collapse dumping all your clothes to the closet floor.

The other method requires a bit more skill and time. You first must locate the wall studs behind the closet walls. Then you mark and pre-drill the screw holes for the closet pole bracket. Next you install the bracket and the closet pole with screws through the drywall directly into the wall studs. You now have the confidence that not only is the closet pole functional but it will last. While one method is fast and expedient it’s prone to failure. The other requires skill, time and some modest expertise but provides a solid foundation and assures you the closet pole will not “let you down” when stressed.

Think of processes as the foundational elements of your IT infrastructure. They need to be designed and built with an understanding of best practices and, where necessary, compliance criteria to ensure the safety, resiliency and durability of the IT services that run on your infrastructure. They comprise the framework of your infrastructure. Doesn’t it just make sense that they should be “built” with the same level of precision and compliance as a home built to defined building standards? You and your customers should have confidence your processes are anchored to a solid framework. Just as a home must be built to a code and a closet pole installed securely your processes must align with a proven framework. If you think about it, this is step one in risk reduction. Build to a framework and minimize the risk your processes will fail when you need them most.

The process-centric “building code” of best practices:

  • Requires us to think of the infrastructure as a system working in harmony with other processes, the people who use them and the technology that enables the processes.
  • Mandates a minimum level of process ownership and accountability so we have just one individual to engage when the processes are not working.  This individual is responsible for assuring compliance with the process.
  • Stipulates monitoring and measuring the process to ensure it continues to meet the needs of those who use the process.
  • Requires continuous improvement and “tweaking” of the process to maintain relevance with the business needs.
  • Forces a consideration of how the full complement of processes work together with clarity in process inputs, outputs and interdependencies between and among other processes.
  • Demands precision in terminology such as what constitutes an “incident”, a “problem”, a “change” or an “event”.

“Good enough” is not “good enough” if the structure you are building does not meet requirements of local codes or, worse, results in your new construction failing after just a few years of use. Similarly, ITIL® best practices provides a framework for IT service management and service delivery that will elevate your organization beyond the mediocrity of “good enough”. Properly executed, best practices ensure IT service performance will continually pay dividends as IT strives to stay one step ahead of organizational business needs.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick Musto is an IT Service Management professional with first-hand experience in Service Management implementations in shared services and service oriented architectures across several industries. Patrick has national and international experience as an implementation consultant, facilitator, trainer and course developer for IT Service Management, process improvement and IT governance.  Patrick is a regular contributor to thought leadership in best practices and co-author of “Six Sigma for Service Management”, a contributor and reviewer of the Continual Service Improvement Core Publication and a reviewer of several ITIL® Complementary Guidance publications. Patrick holds a number of ITIL® certifications, is an ISO 20K Service Management Consultant and is a Six Sigma Belt.

*IT Infrastructure Library® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office

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