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Top IT best-practice methodologies that work

IT Best practice322566963845.2045

May 2011

These days, “best-practice” is as much a buzzword as, well, “buzzword” itself. But when it comes to IT infrastructure management, there’s more to the phrase than mere jargon. IT best-practice methodologies are standardised and proven processes that help improve IT functions. The benefits - be they more streamlined applications, improved reliability, better efficiencies or cost savings - are measureable enterprise-wide. IT best-practice methodologies also give IT pros a career focus, as many of them can only be used by certified practitioners.

While there are multiple best-practice methodologies out there, three of the most widely used are IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Project Management Professional (PMP) and Six Sigma.

Developed by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC), ITIL is a set of rules for how to deliver IT services more efficiently, providing a more comprehensive approach to service management. The result is predictable, consistent processes that deliver value to your business by improving IT productivity and reducing costs.

IT executives at many companies across all industries have implemented ITIL best-practices in their organisations. One example is Disney.

Disney’s ITIL ride
To the child within us, Disney - with its theme parks, movies and cruiselines - represents pure happiness. But behind the scenes, it’s a larger-than-life enterprise with nearly 1,000 IT employees supporting 1,800 servers. Reliability and availability issues are top priority for Glen Taylor, VP of Technology for Theme Parks & Resorts.

To deliver a high quality customer experience, Disney pushed for better IT efficiencies using ITIL. “ITIL aligns IT with the business; our goal was to grow into a more proactive IT organisation,” explains Taylor in a case study published by OGC Best Management Practice. “ITIL helped provide the tools and metrics to define the value of IT services.”

Taylor describes widespread adoption as his biggest hurdle. “With over 700 domestic IT [employees], we simply can’t adopt large-scale change overnight.” His first step was to make employees aware of Disney’s interest in ITIL. Then, he said, Disney could demonstrate how ITIL would help them address their IT issues more effectively. In the end, Disney trained 250 people in ITIL and 50 percent decided to get certified.

2. PMP
There are more than 370,000 practitioners worldwide certified for the Project Management Institute's PMP certification. PMI's 12 standards for project, program and portfolio management are developed and updated by thousands of experienced project managers, including IT specialists. As a PMP-certified pro, you can bring value to your organisation by improving strategy through standardisation.

To get the kudos, you’ll have to hunker down and put in the time. To start, you’ll need at least three to five years of professional project management experience, depending on your educational background. Plus, you’ll need to have spent between 4,500 and 7,500 hours leading and directing projects. Another 35 hours of PMI education is also required. Certified pros are expected to attain 60 professional development units every three years.

3. Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma
Six Sigma was invented some 20 years ago by Motorola to solve manufacturing problems. The methodology, rooted in statistical mathematics, helped Motorola achieve more than $16 billion in savings. Because of the success, the methodology soon moved from the factory floor and into the executive suite.

Since then, Lean Six Sigma has been introduced to enhance Six Sigma. Lean focuses on cost reduction through process optimisation while Six Sigma strives to improve quality by eliminating defects. By standardising processes, you can eliminate controllable errors that lead to wasteful IT spending.

Who’s the ideal Six Sigma candidate?
Like ITIL, Six Sigma is practiced by Six Sigma-certified professionals. There are four Six Sigma “belt” levels: Yellow (basic), Green, Black and Master Black belt (advanced).

Though belt requirements vary by institution, what sets a Master apart is an extensive program that lasts several months. It often requires successful completion and defense of theoretical management projects in addition to training. In the end, the result is highly trained, functional leaders that save IT departments money thanks to operational improvements.

More bang, less buck
Even with global IT budgets on the rise, it’s still worthwhile to seek ways to maximise your organisation’s IT return on investments. Adopting best-practice methodologies is a smart choice because you’re ensuring your organisation gets the biggest bang from IT investments. And it doesn’t hurt that getting certified gives IT pros some additional expertise (read: leverage). Consider it a win-win.

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