|Research, training, consultancy and software to reduce IT costs|
Standards - consensus or competition?
Standards are too important to be monopolies. We need to introduce more competition into standards so that they can be adopted more widely.
Standards like ITIL, COBIT, and many of the ISO standards, contain excellent material for IT management. But there are problems. The standards are not well understood by many IT managers. They can seem bureaucratic and cumbersome. They are not as widely adopted as they could be, especially in smaller organisations.
Working with standards can be frustrating. Many of them have to be paid for. None of them allow you to freely modify and distribute derivative works.
There are good reasons why standards are restricted, paid-for products.
Of course there is a downside.
The people who develop standards are dedicated and have a passion for excellence. But their efforts are not as widely appreciated as they could be. How can we make better use of all this good work?
Standards have rich processes for contribution, review and building consensus. But to make standards better adopted, we need more than consensus. We need competition. And we can only have competition when we have competing processes for setting standards.
We can introduce competition in standards by reducing restrictions on the creation of derivative works.
Linux provides a model for this. There is a tightly controlled core of functionality (the kernel) which is freely available and used by many competing distributions. Each distribution bundles the kernel with additional functionality for their customers. Some distributions (such as Red Hat and Fedora) concentrate on server management, others on the workstation environment (SUSE, Mandrake), multi-media capabilities (Ubuntu) or ease of use (Linspire). Different distributions have different commercial models, serving the needs of different markets. The core functionality is protected, and there is enough flexibility for variants to meet specific customer needs.
A similar model would allow competition to mould IT management standards to the specific needs of multiple customers, while preserving the critical core.
Would this weaken standards? Every day, managers pick and choose different parts of standards to use in their organisation. Making this tailoring to specific needs part of the standards process will strengthen standards, not weaken them.
Strong, widely-adopted standards need to be free. Standards are too important to be monopolies.Next: What is a system?
Minimal IT: research, training, consultancy and software to reduce IT costs.