In this Q&A, IT Policy Facilitator Kim Stahl of the ITS Policy Office at UNC-Chapel Hill explains the role of the ITS Policy Office, what she’s working on in 2017 and why this work matters.
This Q&A is the first of four posts in a Getting to Know series about the ITS Policy Office.
What does the ITS Policy Office do?Keeps an eye on ITS’ policies, standards and procedures and on other University policies that affect ITS. That means that the ITS Policy Office puts that content into standard form and collects them into central locations to make things easier to find and understand. New documents get exposed to the people affected so that everything works better. So it’s about organization and common sense, really.
How large is the ITS Policy Office?Well, the Policy Office is really just me, so come to ITS Manning 3008 for all of your policy needs.
How long have you been working on policy at ITS?For about 2.5 years. But that isn’t all I do.
How did you get into policy?By accident. I was a real IT person once (user support, DBA and UNIX admin). When I stepped into IT management, I realized how much things could be affected (for better or for much worse) if processes and policies were good or bad. I wrote and fixed a lot of policies and procedures for one employer, helped some peer organizations with theirs and then got pulled in to work with a handful of small companies on their SOPs before coming to ITS. I’m told that not everyone loves policy, so I was happy to help.
Why is this work important?When good and earnest people trying to do their jobs well can’t find, understand or follow a policy, that makes them frustrated and keeps them from being effective. People only need a few things to succeed at their jobs. Clear, reasonable expectations are one of those things. Policy can provide that or can prevent it. It’s more important than people think. Of course, there are also financial risks to the University, risks to people’s information and other important policy issues. But I think that if we help good people do their jobs well, the rest takes care of itself.
What’s the biggest misconception about policies at ITS?The same misconception people have about policy anywhere– that things are required “because it’s policy.” It’s the other way around. Policies are written because something is important. If a policy doesn’t make sense, that needs attention.
Why do you love working on policy?Two reasons. So many experiences with people having a frustrating or confusing issue resolved by policy. And because I get to work with so many people and learn about their jobs and how things work in order to match documents to real life. I’m perpetually fascinated by how things get done.
What are you focusing on this year?I have the Information Security Policy (what’s left of it) in my sights. But there are quite a few other important documents underway as well. Just eating a few more bites of the elephant (fixing non-standard or outdated documents) will be a plus.
How can staff at ITS help you and these efforts?Please read drafts! Even if it’s not your area or you don’t like policy, it really helps me to know when the rubber won’t meet the road. Every set of eyeballs and experience improves the document.
For more information, please visit the ITS Policies web page.