IT department managers say that an Computer & Information Technology Policies and Procedures Manual helps them with the volume of work standards that have mushroomed in their departments, ostensibly to implement accepted IT processes such as Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Capability Maturity Model (CMM), and others. Such tools are, of course, designed to help us gain better alignment with business goals and more efficient project implementation.
But is the volume of IT documentation really helping? Despite the growth of documentation, managers note persistent symptoms including an ever-increasing project backlog, and little direct feedback from completed software projects indicating that they are having the desired impact on the business. These are symptoms of lack of alignment of business processes with the business’ goals.
When workers view IT policies and procedures as irrelevant or hard to use, they tend to rely on tribal knowledge—they just ask each other questions. While that can be effective, formal knowledge management systems become superfluous and they die. This invites other problems, like inconsistent product quality, loss of knowledge as people leave, lack of compliance and no audit trail, hoarding of information. All of this puts customer satisfaction and even the company’s future at risk, managers say.
Start with written standards. IT policies and procedures need to be aligned with key IT processes and business goals, or users will find workarounds. We hear from IT managers because they think of us as ‘the policies and procedures guys,’ and they sense that “better” procedures, best practices, and time test routines are the answer.
But we’re the first ones to suggest that standards and policies and procedures are only part of the answer. When found in abundance, IT policies, procedures and standards could be a symptom of lack of alignment around business goals. It’s like trying to patch an ineffective working relationship by writing down every possible scenario. Of course that’s impossible. And it only hamstrings the creativity and initiative of your best computer professionals.
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By playing the role of an IT facilitator, you can help IT staff and stakeholders collaborate to examine existing IT processes, modify them as necessary, and agree on a workable new IT process. As their IT manager and resource, you can provide communications and IT training to reinforce buy-in and adoption for new processes. Success creates an impetus for further business process improvement. With the improved focus, it’s easier to weed out unnecessary processes and get better results.