Best Practices–References, Not Absolutes

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“What is the best practice?”

You will hear this phrase often in the world of IT. Architects, engineers, and management all want to make sure that their projects are being implemented using proven techniques and technologies. Best practices are in theory validated by manufacturers and various professional organizations. Furthermore, best practices are usually based upon what has worked in the field for a large sample of users.

The problem with best practices though is that what is “best” is often determined by an organization looking to support their solution, and not your environment. What happens when you have two different best practices that contradict each other? What if the manufacturers of those solutions cannot agree upon a single best practice?

Even worse, what if the best practice just does not work for your particular situation?

I am not suggesting that you dismiss what the best practices are for the technologies that you use. I am suggesting that you ask yourself:

  • Who decided what the “best” practice is?
  • How was the “best” practice determined?
  • Is the “best” practice disputed by credible sources?

If a manufacturer says that the “best” practice is to use only their equipment, and this was determined by “extensive testing in their labs”, but various experts independent of that manufacturer are raising concerns you should be wary. Just how reputable is that label of “best” practice?

On the other hand, if multiple manufacturers agree on a practice based upon what actual users have done across many real world production environments that is probably an actual best practice. Especially if industry experts not only endorse the practice, but can also explain why it is a best practice (and question any “expert” who cannot explain what they endorse).

Now the kicker here is that even if a practice truly is a best practice that still does not mean that it should be adopted as your practice. You still need to evaluate whether or not that best practice is the best solution for your organization. Remember, a lot of best practices become former best practices. That is the nature or progress: What is best is consistently bettered.

So know what the best practices are for the solutions that you adopt, and then spend a little time to still evaluate those practices as they relate to your environment and organization. In the end your job as an IT professional is not to deliver best practices. Your job is to deliver the best service that you possibly can for your organization.

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