What Is a Best Current Practice?

Mary McMahon

A best current practice (BCP) is a method generally accepted as being the most appropriate and effective at the time guideline documents are drafted, though these can be subject to change as better practices develop. This can be used to refer to a variety of business activities, and also has a specific meaning in the information technology community. The Internet Engineering Task Force has a set of best current practice documents it uses to recommend the most effective way to perform various tasks related to the Internet and networking, and uses these both as guidelines and requests for comment from the public.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

In a best current practice document, the preparer will discuss the method and approach, and may provide reasoning to explain why it appears to be the most suitable at a given time. This document is dated, to provide information about when it was the best current practice. This can prevent confusions over which document is current, as newer releases supersede others. There may also be a version number on the document to provide additional information.

This guideline is not a requirement or a mandate, although regulations may be developed with best current practices in mind and could potentially turn them into legal mandates. Instead, the document represents the best known way to do something, whether it's cleaning a cooling tower at a power plant or setting up an office network. The document is based on the experiences of people in the industry, research, and what leading members of the industry do.

In terms of Internet standards, the best current practice guidelines help developers of information technology and Internet architecture stay on the same page. They can look up documents to determine the most logical approach to a problem. These documents are also regularly updated and phased out as appropriate. Information technology professionals can submit comments and suggestions that may be incorporated in future versions to improve the best current practice.

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If a company feels the need to deviate from best current practice, it may need to provide information about why and how. This documentation can be kept with the paperwork associated with a project. People with questions may review it to determine why the project deviated from the norm. If the deviation does not appear reasonable or logical, questions about the fitness to do work of that nature in the future may be raised. Such errors may also trigger exception clauses in liability insurance and other insurance coverage, an issue that companies should consider before they decide to abandon best current practice.

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