Digital is the name of the game in the modern world, though often companies find themselves operating with IT policies from a bygone era.

This millennium, having a robust and up to date IT policy framework isn’t just nice to have; it’s an essential component of ensuring your IT continues to enable smooth operations while limiting cyberattack and compliance vulnerabilities.

Great IT policies have clearly outlined procedures and guidelines for implementation and maintenance – so employees actually understand and follow them.

What makes a great IT policy and how can your business bring yours up to modern standards?

That’s what we’ll cover in this post.

What is an IT policy?

IT policies are the sets of rules and guidelines for how IT resources should be used and how operations should be conducted within your organization, covering everything from personal internet and email usage to security processes, software and hardware inventory management, and data retention standards.

Their purpose?

To enable the safe and effective use of your IT infrastructure by everyone in your company by making it clear when and how technology resources are to be used.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to better understand how IT policies should work.

Stephanie in Accounting has a 10-year-old daughter selling chocolate for her school’s annual fundraiser, so she sends an email to the entire company letting everyone know the catalog is in the lunchroom and to email her their orders within the next week.

Is this an acceptable use of your company’s email systems? It depends on your company’s requirements and culture, but whether it is or isn’t this is a scenario that should be covered in your IT policy.

In the purchasing department, Robert’s acquisition software is being updated.

Since he’s unable to access it and thus can’t do his normal duties, he decides to check Facebook while he waits as he’s heard about a controversial video involving a celebrity and wants to find it.

Is Robert allowed to check his social media at work? What are the consequences if he views inappropriate content while on the job? Again, effective IT policies make this clear.

Finally, Andrea has just joined your Marketing team as its first in-house graphic designer and starts in one week.

To have her ready to hit the ground running, she’ll need her own computer, complete with graphic design software, a company email account, internet access, Microsoft 365, and access to your file-sharing server.

Who’s responsible for making any additional purchases, configuring, and maintaining her computer?

It’s all defined in your IT policies.

IT policy standards woman computer

The Importance of a Robust IT Policy

Effective IT policies are clear, thorough, and start with your business objectives and requirements (instead of what the IT department thinks makes sense based on the tools and configurations it uses).

That’s why we strongly encourage that corporate leadership and department heads work with the IT team to provide input and feedback to develop them.

Why do all the work to create a robust IT policy instead of just addressing problems as they arise?

Undocumented policies = inconsistent results

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:

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?

IT policy framework two people computer

Core Components of IT Policy

With the benefits in mind, let’s cover some core areas you should address in your organization’s IT policies.

We can only offer general guidelines and considerations as the particulars will depend entirely on your company’s unique needs.

That said, here are a few components to consider:

These key considerations will guide you as you create your IT policy framework. If you’re looking for an IT policy template to get started, TechRepublic has a good resource with downloadable IT policy examples.

IT policy management two people papers smiling

Challenges with Creating and Implementing IT Policies

With the core components of an effective IT policy clarified, it’s time to consider creating and implementing one for your company.

But with so much to consider between each core area, all the technology you use, the needs and wants of your various departments and the capabilities of your employees, there are quite a few barriers to developing and acting on your IT policy.

Let’s take a look at some of the common roadblocks and a few ideas for how to overcome them.

Employee buy-in is essential

Impacting employee behavior to increase security and more effectively utilize your IT infrastructure is a core goal of creating IT policies, so ensuring they understand why you’re implementing them and getting their buy-in is essential.

One of the key ways IT policies can fail is not incorporating the employee perspective and getting their buy-in.

If they see you’ve decided to restrict usage, change processes, or switch technologies like your accounting software without reason, you’ll undoubtedly create friction.

The “without reason” is the key phrase here, though; in many cases, simply explaining why you’ve made the change and how it’s better for the company and/or their work can be enough to get their support.

Getting their feedback before enacting the new policy or making the changes almost always eliminates this challenge before it becomes an issue.

Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to implement your new IT policy framework consistently.

If you’ve decided to not allow anyone to use company email to announce their daughter’s chocolate fundraiser, “letting it slide” when Stephanie does it but telling Harold it’s inappropriate when he does it will cause confusion and frustration for everyone.

Making the best use of company and employee time 

Especially in busy companies, it’s easy to feel like there are always fires to fight and never enough time in the day.

This makes seemingly “high level” and “abstract” projects like creating and implementing IT policies easy to put on the backburner in favor of more urgent tasks (at least ones that seem so).

If you’re serious about increasing the security of your company’s IT infrastructure, reducing compliance risk, and more effectively utilizing your IT budgets by implementing new IT policies, you’ll need to stress the importance of the project to key stakeholders and eventually all your employees.

Other implementation challenges we’ve seen when it comes to employee time and prioritization include:

IT policy examples video conference four faces computer

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:

IT policy for the future woman looking at screen

IT Policy in Summary

As technology evolves, so too should your business.

To ensure your company remains secure, compliant, and effective, clearly written and implemented IT policies are a must.

Hopefully this article has given you a clearer understanding of what an IT policy is, why it’s important, and what’s involved in implementing yours.

To summarize:

All that being said, at Commprise we definitely appreciate there’s a ton of work to do beyond reading this article.

And many companies don’t have the expertise, time, or resources to take on the project of creating and clarifying their IT policies internally.

The good news: we’re here to help companies like yours address these exact challenges!

Which is why one of the many components we can include in our managed IT services is policy creation, implementation, and management.

Interested in learning more about just what creating an IT policy entails and how you can craft one that meets your organization’s specific needs?

Give us a call at the number above and we’ll be happy to answer any and all questions you have!