The confusion of standards in IT
By Nathaniel Mitchell*
Wednesday, 31 July, 2019
One of my biggest bugbears in IT is the implementation of standards between companies, be this in job titles, procedures, iconography, conventions and so on. Now, it’s understandable that not everyone will agree on definitions, and different people have different understandings of ideas and concepts. A good example of these differences comes from defining terms used within ITIL for service management (helpdesk): What constitutes a service request? What constitutes an incident? What constitutes a problem? When does a change request need to be generated?
An example of iconography that means something different to people is the ‘comm-link’ icon from Visio:
During my formative years in IT, I was taught that this symbol means a radiocommunication link (eg, Wi-Fi, microwave, satellite). But, more and more, I see people using this icon as a method to indicate a virtual link (eg, VPN) between sites. With discrepancies such as this and without the words to explain it, are we as a profession making things (directly or indirectly) harder than they need to be?
Just as in many other professions and industries, IT has large areas of knowledge that are easily moved between companies and are not specific to any one company. But differences in definitions do make it harder for staff to transition between workplaces, as one definition can mean something entirely different to different people… and not knowing the difference can end up being disastrous for all involved.
Here’s another example. At a previous job, FM meant ‘facility management’ or ‘facility managed’ (depending on who you asked), whereas my next employer used FM as ‘fully managed’ but did not define this anywhere during the onboarding process. So during my initial months at the new job, hearing about ‘FM clients’ gave me some confusion as the new employer did not do facility management — during the initial period of employment, the FM term had not been used enough for me to gain an appreciation of the context in order to find out what it meant.
As a profession, do we need to stop making new standards for the current flavour of the day? Or should we start working towards either using an existing standard as our guideline, or building one that we can stand for and with?
So here’s a question for you: Is this something we should strive for, much like the ITPA (formerly SAGE-AU) code of ethics? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?
*Nathaniel Mitchell is a director of the Information Technology Professionals Association.
Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) is a not-for-profit organisation focused on continual professional development for its 18,700 members. To learn more about becoming an ITPA member, and the range of training opportunities, mentoring programs, events and online forums available, go to www.itpa.org.au.
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