It is one thing to implement patches. User compliance with patch releases is another animal. Humans are not as predictable as computers programmed with IT technology. Humans have unique and spontaneous behaviors, opinions and inspirations. Yet, it is still possible for humans to comply with patch releases. Here’s how to do it:
Let Everyone Know About the Patch Release Ahead of Time
Communicate patch releases in advance through e-mails, phone calls, instant messages etc. If possible, let everyone know a full day in advance. People hate being blindsided with surprise prompts. No one likes being forced to reboot without ample notice beforehand. Provide an explanation along with the patch. Let employees know why the patch is necessary, how it remedies problems and provide other contextual information. Such an explanation will boost employee participation and help them obtain a better understanding of why the patch is essential to secure operations.
People detest rebooting their computers, especially in the midst of a complicated project. Employees should be provided some leeway when it comes to rebooting. If someone is attempting to meet a tight deadline, do not force him to reboot right away.
It is prudent to have everyone conduct the reboot by the day’s end. Or, coordinate automatic patch reboots at a time that is more convenient. The final option is to mandate automated computer reboots after a specific amount of time has passed. Just make sure everyone is aware that the mandatory reboot will occur at the designated time.
When in doubt, offer incentives for compliance with patch requests. Management might be willing to implement positive reinforcement for compliance with patches. This is much more effective than punishing those who do not comply. Examples of positive reinforcement include a small amount of comp time, pizza parties, breakfast burritos, doughnuts etc. The same incentives should be provided to IT technology experts who work late to implement the patch. Just be sure to keep maintain a high level of professionalism at all times so employees do not feel like they are back in high school.
Manager Buy-In is Essential
Managers must be on board with the patch implementation and accompanying requirements. Obtain their support and they will serve as vital allies to encourage employees to comply. Establishing these alliances is more important than sending e-mails from IT. As long as managers comprehend the business advantages to patch projects, they will provide ample support. They might even be willing to assist with updates and reboots.
Be Sure to Follow Up
Do not assume that every employee will comply with the requirements of the patch. Someone might be especially busy and forget to check his e-mail and/or reboot; others might be sick or on vacation. Track the systems in accordance with patch requirements. Reach out to those who have unpatched devices and systems so they are aware of their responsibilities.
Take care to avoid sending reminders to those who are in compliance. Only send these communications to non-compliant users. E-mail each of these employees on an individual basis or blind-carbon-copy them on the same message. This way, specific employees are not singled out in front of the entire team. Do not add managers to the message unless the employee repeatedly refuses to comply.
If an individual is worried that his computer won’t function after rebooting or that it will take too long for the start-up process to occur, speak with him. Address his concern(s) in-depth until he is comfortable with the required processes.
Communication Will Make Compliance as Smooth as Possible
In the end, IT technology experts who clearly communicate with employees about the necessary steps for patch implementation will enjoy a highly efficient process. People want to know the why of the situation. Keep users engaged in the process and provide regular updates. This level of engagement will facilitate additional patch projects that inevitably arise in the future.