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 policy will have clearly outlined procedures and guidelines for implementation and maintenance – so employees actually understand and follow them.
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 is 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
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.
Robert in Aquisitions
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.
Andrea in Marketing
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.
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.
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! This is why one of the many components we can include in our managed IT services is policy creation, implementation, and management.