Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.

Businesses recognize the value of a mission statement. It guides them in decision making, by making clear the values by which decisions are made. The same principle can be applied to making choices about technology. By crafting a technology policy, even if it is very simple, you can clarify what you base your decisions on when it comes to computers and all that goes with them.

A business that values being on the leading edge will make very different choices than a business that values minimizing costs. By thinking through what you value, and putting your values in priority order, you can have a consistent policy for technology decision making. Even a very small company can benefit from thoughtful decisions, rather than an impulse buy while out shopping.

Here are some options to help stimulate your thinking:

Does your market require you to embrace or avoid particular technologies?

Some businesses are unable to compete without a sophisticated information management system. What level of automation does your industry require? Does your company depend on a particular vertical market software package? If so, what constraints does that put on your technology decision making?

What impact does your technology or lack of it have on how the company is perceived?

Most people expect companies to have a web site and email address. To what extent do you need to be on the leading edge in the eyes of your customers? Do you need to exchange files in the latest version of your applications? For example, a printing company might value staying up with the latest graphics software so they could read their client’s files.

How important is security?

Do you keep financially valuable information in your files, such as credit card numbers? Do you keep information that is protected by law, such as medical records?

How important is reliability?

Can you afford to not use your computers for a day? An hour? How valuable is the data you store? What does it cost you to deal with problems?

How important is speed?

Will spending an extra $500 to save 20 minutes a day pay off? Are there particular functions or jobs where speed is important?

Here is an example of a simple but effective technology policy:

We use Technology to:

  • Enhance the flow of information within our company.
  • Gather and use information about our customers, and how our products are sold, used, and perceived.
  • Facilitate management decision making

Our Values, in priority order:

  • Maximize return on technology investments. We watch Total cost of ownership, and invest only in areas that have a clear tangible return. We use written hardware and software standards, which are reviewed by the technology committee every 6 months.
  • Reliability – We spend a little more, and stay away from the leading edge to make sure we are able to work without interruption. We measure risk and cost of down time to determine where to invest.
  • Communication with customers and vendors – We value open channels of communication, even at the risk of somewhat less security. We stay on par with our customers software where needed to facilitate business, but do not lead.

We maintain written policies for the following specific areas:

  • Computer Use policy, for staff. Maintained by the HR dept.
  • Security policy, maintained by the IT staff.
  • Hardware and software standards, maintained by the technology committee.

Technology decisions are made as follows:

  • Needs and opportunities are presented by all employees to the technology coordinator, who presents them to the technology committee.
  • Recommendations are made or reviewed by IT staff, and outside consultants where appropriate.
  • Costs and potential return on investment is reviewed by the Controller.
  • Final decisions under $xxx are made by the department. Decisions over that amount are made by the CEO.

A technology policy should serve as a lasting guide to decision making, and should not need to be changed very often. It should not address any specific brands or versions of products. Properly used, it assists everyone in the company to make decisions that are aligned to accomplish the goals of the organization.