Last week, AT&T had to wipe a little egg off its face when they enacted and promptly canceled a policy that restricted iPhone sales. According to CNET’s Crave blog:

Just one day after instituting a policy of one iPhone sale per customer, AT&T said Thursday that it has ended the policy both on its Web site and in its retail stores. Customers will now be able to buy three iPhones per person, a limit that the carrier enacted when the device first went on sale almost a year ago.

What was AT&T thinking? Several possibilities exist. Here are a few guesses:

  • Frightened by an erroneous report on limited iPhone supplies, an AT&T employee overreacted and sent the policy without validating the numbers or getting corporate approval.
  • An employee sent the policy memo by mistake–AT&T was considering the policy but had not made an official decision.
  • Contrary to AT&T’s assertion, iPhone supplies are limited, but they don’t want anyone to know.
  • The whole event was a publicity stunt.
  • Verizon hired hackers to crack AT&T’s e-mail system, send the memo, and make AT&T look like silly.

Regardless of the reason, AT&T’s faux pas should serve as a warning to IT leaders everywhere.

Today’s lesson: Carefully vet policies before rolling them out (particularly external-facing ones)

Just like any business unit, IT’s organizational clout is largely based on how much confidence your customers have in you. Enacting and quickly canceling a permanent policy makes you look foolish and can cause your customers to loose faith in your abilities. If you can’t avoid canceling a newly-introduced policy, you must have a good reason. AT&T didn’t. Crave provides some insight into AT&T reasoning:

According to Information Week, the carrier lifted the new limit after realizing it has “sufficient inventory” to revert to its original policy.

I don’t know what makes AT&T look worse–admitting the policy was a mistake or the fact they don’t know how many iPhones they have.

Mistakes happen. Calvin Sun’s article, “10 things you should do if you make a big mistake,” can even help you handle your business blunders. But, you can avoid following in AT&T’s footsteps by carefully vetting new policies before implementation. To you avoid rolling out a policy you quickly have to rescind, check out these TechRepublic resources and ready-made IT policies: