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The Problem with Using IT Policy and Procedure Templates

    a stack of thick binders, representing the problem with using IT policy and procedure templates

    Digital technology has inserted itself into almost every classic industry creating trendy niches such as Fintech, Blockchain, Digital Marketing and Edtech.  Documenting Information Technology policies and procedures have become a necessity to protect customer information from cyber-attacks, maintain compliance with laws and regulations, and set expectations for employees. Creating, monitoring, and updating policies and procedures is no easy feat. Large companies have entire departments dedicated to this process, but what about smaller businesses and sole proprietors? Many turn to IT policy and procedure templates and embark on writing their own to save money, but is that wise? What are the pitfalls to using IT policy and procedure templates? Is there a better way?

    Customization Still Matters

    Templates can be a wonderful starting point for the novice and small business owner to know what they need. Must haves like an “Acceptable Use” policy, which outlines when and how company assets should be utilized while employed, and the “Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity” policy, which outlines personnel roles and responsibilities during an incident, should be customized with each individual business in mind. There is no one-size-fits-all template, and each business must also factor in maintenance. For example, when company software gets updated, or the sales team expands into new markets, IT policies and procedures will need to be updated to reflect those changes. This is especially important for businesses within heavily regulated industries such as finance or defense contracting. Failure to do so could result in revenue loss or a catastrophic business failure. 

    Policy or Legally Binding Contract?

    On the surface, most IT policies and procedures appear as simple forms of workforce management. For example, most businesses have an employee handbook documenting employee expectations and outlining specific behaviors that could lead to immediate termination. By using a generic template with overly specific or incorrect terminology, a company could be legally liable for damages when personnel disputes lead to legal arbitration if it is included in the employment agreement. The same argument could be made for non-compete and non-disclosure agreements as well. 

    Inconsistencies Are Inevitable

    IT policies and procedures will need to change and evolve with the business; however, it will be extremely difficult to find a template that will assist with these updates and changes. It is not uncommon for small businesses to have over 50 policies and procedures to update and maintain. With this typically comes inconsistencies with framework, monitoring compliance, and simple enforcement of the polices. It could be more costly to bring in a documentation writer to fix the inconsistencies than it would have been to utilize one in the first place to draft original documents.

    IT Policy and Procedure Templates… Too Much of a Good Thing?

    After looking at a few templates, it becomes abundantly clear that they are jam packed with every little thing to provide value to the purchaser. The problem with this approach is that a simple document is now a lengthy read with irrelevant information. Some of the IT templates are so bloated with information that it reduces the flexibility of the template itself. Is it really necessary to restate the same thing five different ways? How will a company know what parts of the template to keep and what to discard? How much time will be wasted trying to fix these template issues that is better suited doing something else? 

    Is There a Better Way?

    For what it’s worth, templates can be a helpful starting point, but they are far from the best option. Instead, you should hire a documentation writing consultant to draft the initial documents and assist with those ever important updates. Whether you need a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation or a single technical writer for a brief project, Essential Data’s Engagement Manager will lead the project from start to finish. At Essential Data Corporation, the quality of our work is guaranteed. Contact us today to get started. (800) 221-0093 or sales@edc.us

    Written by Latrice M. Sillers

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