Whether they’re documented or not, IT policies exist in every organization. Off the top of your head, you can probably think of at least 2 or 3 things that aren’t okay for your employees to do with their company technology.
But “this goes without saying” is a bad way to manage IT infrastructure for a couple of reasons.
For one, it can make your company more exposed to cyberattacks or compliance violations as most average users don’t understand the fundamentals of IT security or regulatory compliance.
Well crafted, clearly documented IT policies not only enable your IT team to implement technologies and processes to automatically keep your user activity secure, they also provide a point of reference for each employee on how they can and can’t use their company equipment and software.
Second, undocumented policies lead to everyone in your company operating in a way that makes the most sense to them.
In addition to the vulnerabilities mentioned above, this also makes maintenance and management harder; if Sue is used to saving her work documents on her local laptop, it makes it harder for Larry to have the most up to date reports when she doesn’t remember to email him the Word file.
A great IT policy framework starts with goals
Great IT policies start with business objectives and needs, then translate those into actionable guidelines and procedures for how everyone in the company operates.
Some common objectives included in IT policy are:
- Empower employees: By defining the importance of your IT policy for your company, as well as clarifying rules and disciplinary actions, you make it easier for everyone in the company to responsibly use their technology with minimal confusion.
- Protect company information: Clear policies reduce the likelihood of breaches due to cyberattacks by outlining vulnerabilities and how they’re protected for your IT team, as well as explaining common security risks and how to defend against them to your other employees.
- Improve business and employee performance: IT policies streamline protocols, address obstacles to compliance, and make it easier for employees to understand and follow IT best practices to support efficient business operations and growth.
- Identify IT opportunities: Great policies outline key IT resources and procedures for maintaining and upgrading them to save costs, improve security, and optimize your workflows.
- Work towards company-wide consistency: Clear IT policies streamline operations by providing one set of dos and don’ts for everyone in the company.
- Minimize IT error: By making equipment usage, implementation and training processes, and IT risks clearer, documented IT policies reduce the risk and effects of human error.
- Maintain IT over time: Great IT policies incorporate guidelines for reviewing IT equipment, software, and procedures regularly to keep your company up and running and provide opportunities for IT managers to recommend and implement upgrades.
Benefits of creating an organization-specific IT policy framework
Of course, defining the specifics of your organization’s IT goals and policies is a lot of work, especially for already busy executives and managers.
What makes that work worth the effort?
- Maximize IT value/usefulness: Depending on your business, IT infrastructure can be one of your largest cost centers. When you’re able to effectively implement and maintain your software and hardware, you’re able to maximize its lifetime value to your company.
- Limit risk exposure/company information security: Security and compliance breaches are not only a huge headache to fix, they’re also potentially business-destroying. Clear, well written IT policies can go a long way in minimizing these risks.
- Reduce operating costs: As part of your IT policy creation, you’ll help your IT team better understand the technology and equipment you currently use and your business needs. This information, combined with a policy-defined regular review of your IT infrastructure, creates the opportunity for your IT staff to upgrade and optimize your systems to reduce TCOs and ongoing IT expenses.
Clearly assigning roles and allocating resources is a must when it comes to initially implementing your IT policy. After that, ensuring your employees are educated on what policies mean to them and regularly reviewing/updating your policies is key to making sure they continue to be effective.
Implementation Strategies for Your IT Policy
As we’ve discussed above, your IT policy and procedures mean little without an implementation plan.
Though creating your IT policy can be challenging in and of itself, putting it into practice and sticking to it is where the bulk of the work lies.
Here are a few things to address to ensure your policy becomes a part of your daily workflows:
- Resource allocation: Make sure you’ve dedicated resources to implementation. It’s not realistic to think that the IT policy will be followed just because it’s been written down. This involves defining roles, managers, budgets, and training.
- Employee education: Ensuring all your employees understand the why and hows of relevant portions of your policy is absolutely essential. For a smaller company, this might mean a couple of meetings and some one on one discussions. For larger companies, creating a more formal course of training can ensure everyone gets up to speed and acts on the new policies as quickly as possible.
- Regular review and updates: Your IT policy implementation manager should regularly update stakeholders throughout the process to clarify issues and report progress. And your policy should include a process for regular review so that it can be updated as needed to address evolving business needs and technological capabilities.
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