Procedures, Processes and Policies

I’m going to tell a little story about my family.  I promise this story has a point, so please bear with me!

My wife and I have four kids, so there’s always lots of things that need to be done around the house.  We decided that we wanted the kids to share some of this responsibility, so we started teaching them to do things to help.  One example is that I’ve shown all of my kids how to cut the lawn.  This included teaching them how to start the mower, how to move the mower on the lawn to make the grass shorter, and how to shut off the mower and put it away.

It wasn’t enough to teach the kids how to do things, because if we didn’t tell them when to do things, or in what order, the things wouldn’t get done.  To solve this problem, we made daily checklists for our kids to complete after school each day.  The checklist would include things like taking out the garbage and doing homework.

It didn’t take long to realize that if we didn’t do anything beyond handing them a checklist, the things still didn’t get done.  We would find that the kids were sitting around and playing video games or chatting with friends on Skype, etc… instead of doing their work.  We decided to take the advice of another parent who posted a note to their child that said something like “if you want today’s Wifi password, take out the trash!”.  It works great, because my kids can’t play their video games or do much else without access to their precious Internet!

So what does this have to do with ITAM?  I’m so glad you asked!  The story I just told has 3 elements every ITAM program needs in order to be successful. Those three elements are Procedures, Processes, and Policies.

Procedures are detailed instructions on how to do a specific function (i.e. start the lawnmower, go back and forth on the lawn, etc…).  An example of a procedure would be how to process a request for a new laptop.  It would explain which system to use, how to access the request, and other specifics about how that function is done.

Processes are similar in that they describe how something is done, but less specifically, and usually will include several procedures.  This is like the checklist in my story above.  In order for my kids to get to their goal of Internet access, they need to follow a checklist.  Unlike a checklist, however, processes include the order of the steps and usually include more than one functional group.  An example of this is the entire process from when the end-user requests the laptop until it is sitting on their desk in a working state.

Policies are the “why” things are done.  This includes the potential consequences for not following processes and procedures.  In my story above, the policy was that my kids had to do their checklist (process) correctly (procedure) or they would not get access to the Internet (Policy).

In my example above, I could buy the best, most advanced lawnmower available, but if the kids don’t know how or when to use it, my grass doesn’t get any shorter.  In the same way, we could buy the best, most advanced ITAM tool ever, but unless everyone knows how, when, and why they need to use it, my data will never be trustworthy or accurate.

I hope this helps explain these important base concepts of ITAM!  If anyone has any questions they’d like us to answer, send it to us on Twitter @ITS_ITAMTeam with the hashtag #BlogQuestion and we may write a blog post about it!

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