What's the purpose of IT policy and procedure? Is it to limit creative use of technology? Is it to place administrative burdens that serve no purpose? Is it to just be controlling? If this is the way "policy and procedure" is viewed, the game has already been lost. The goal of IT policy and procedure is to maximize IT value and promote the most productive usage of IT products and services. Now you just need to convince your end-users of that.
In fact, IT management policies, and related procedures, are often used to limit and control technology utilization, lower operating costs, and limit risk exposure (financial, security, and otherwise). From this perspective, policies and procedures are a necessary, and at times, intrusive, means to an end. However, the story does not have to end there. When used effectively, "policy and procedure" can also be to achieve value added productivity and results. Value added policies and procedures can promote productivity, minimize redundant work effort, and deliver consistency in performance and results.
Policies and procedures are distinct entities, used in tandem to drive IT operations, strategies and decisions. As management terms, they are often used interchangeably, but in reality, policies and procedures are not one and the same.
Policies are specific statements of principles and strategy, providing a "what and why" basis for consistent planning and decision making. Policies can be implied (action becomes policy) or expressed (policy drives action). Implied policies may not exist in documented form, but they become part of the operational culture through repeated patterns of planning and action. Expressed policies are created through detailed planning, and are applied through formal action. In any practical work environment, implied and expressed policies will co-exist.
Procedures provide the actionable steps and activities needed to translate ideas into action. By definition, procedures are always expressed, laid out as a series of steps and activities to be executed for a specific purpose and in a specific order. Procedures support policies, but can also exist without a corresponding policy entity.
To achieve all of the above, and also provide a reasonable opportunity to lower costs, save time and enhance operational productivity. "Sound" policy and procedure provides added value – it does more than control, it contributes.
When appropriately combined, these six (6) keys form a "roadmap" to guide development actions and as benchmark to meaure resulting success. If any one "key" stands out, it is the need for flexibility - to respond to changing circumstances and end-user feedback. It is possible to achieve consistent results with built-in flexibility - and that is the overall goal.
Policy and procedure development begins with an examination of goals, needs and capabilities. In order to realize intended results (according to the six (6) keys listed above), the following questions must be fully considered and addressed:
Once you can answer the questions listed above, you will have created an informational "foundation" upon which specific policies and procedures can be built. While it will take some time and effort, a comprehensive portfolio of well planned, relevant and realistic policies and procedures will go a long way towards realizing your IT management vision and maximizing the return on all IT service investments.
Continue with an illustrated view of IT policy planning and development in our informative infographic: Fundamentals of IT Management Policies.
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