Lesson 3: Don't look foolish by enacting a stupid policy

One day after limiting iPhone sales, AT&T rescinded its policy after realizing it had enough inventory. IT leaders take heed. AT&T's policy faux pas illustrates why IT departments should carefully vet new policies or risk losing customer confidence.

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:

By Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the ...