Standards vs Guidelines

How does your organization manage expectations, implementation, and follow up of what is recommended vs what is required?

Standards and guidelines are two distinct concepts in various fields, including information security, quality management, and regulatory compliance. How does your organization manage expectations, implementation, and follow up?

Let’s contrast these terms:


  • Mandatory Requirements: Standards are mandatory and often legally binding requirements that organizations must adhere to. They specify a set of rules, processes, actions, or configurations that are established to achieve specific objectives. These objectives can be related to safety, quality, security, or any other aspect of a particular domain.
  • Control Objectives: Standards are designed to satisfy control objectives. Control objectives are specific goals or outcomes related to a particular aspect of an organization’s operations. For instance, in information security, a control objective might be to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.
  • Uniformity: Standards promote uniformity and consistency within industries or sectors. They ensure that organizations follow a common set of rules and practices, which helps ensure interoperability and compliance.


  • Recommended Practices: Guidelines, on the other hand, are not mandatory but are instead recommended practices. They are based on industry-recognized secure or best practices. Guidelines provide organizations with a framework or set of suggestions for achieving certain goals or outcomes, but they do not impose strict requirements.
  • Flexibility: Guidelines offer flexibility to organizations in implementing practices that are suitable for their specific circumstances. Organizations can choose to adopt, modify, or even disregard guidelines based on their needs and risk assessments.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Guidelines often serve as a means to share knowledge and expertise within an industry or community. They are typically developed collaboratively and draw upon the collective experience and wisdom of experts in the field.

How we communicate mandatory requirements that our organizations must follow determine whether or not we achieve specific control objectives. Guidelines are recommended practices that provide flexibility and are based on industry-recognized best practices. Both of these are keystones in the construction of our organizational culture. Whether you are part of the leadership team for a specialized niche startup, an established and growing corporation, or a non-profit with a mission that incorporates many stakeholders, how these policies and systems are created and implemented will affect the future of the team.

Next Steps

Establishing the documentation around process can be a challenge. When you are ready to lay the groundwork for the next step in your teams growth – Architectural Art can help!

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