Best practices for your team's on-call rotations

Your on-call system is vital to business — you must be able to help customers fix issues as fast as possible. But getting the rotation right is vital to keeping your team happy and engaged.

February 13, 2021

Your on-call system is vital to business—you must be able to help customers fix issues as fast as possible.

But being on-call can stress out your employees. A poor on-call rotation can magnify this issue, leaving your employees drained and stressed out. Very few people enjoy waking up in the middle of the night to do work. In fact, some great engineers leave companies because they can’t take it.

Fortunately, you can develop an on-call system that serves your customers effectively and doesn’t burn out your team. Read on to learn some best practices for on-call rotation.

Benefits of a good on-call system

Before we get to our top tips for an effective on-call rotation, let’s look at some of the benefits it can bring to your company.

Employee satisfaction

An effective on-call rotation allows your employees to be less stressed and get more sleep. The natural result is a happier, healthier, and more satisfied workforce that does better work and offers improved customer service.

Additionally, you’ll attract and keep better talent and lose fewer team members to burnout.

Improved service reliability and customer satisfaction

By improving your on-call rotation, you’ll always have an employee ready to address customer issues. Your customers will end up more satisfied with the speed and quality of service they receive.

More accountability and transparency

A good on-call system offers transparency, helping to keep everyone accountable. Everyone knows their roles and when they need to be available.

Time saved

You’ll save time when you make your on-call rotation efficient and effective since you’ll cut the amount of time it takes to address issues.

6 on-call rotation best practices

Follow the on-call rotation best practices below to keep things running smoothly on all fronts.

1. Implement DevOps practices

One of the aims of DevOps is to remove communication barriers between teams—helping your organization deal with issues more smoothly.

Perhaps one team might start a response, but another team may be more suited to handle it. In an organization that adopts and embraces DevOps, this issue can be delegated to the right people with ease.

Another benefit of DevOps is that you’ll end up with a better product in the first place. Under DevOps, developers must provide support for the services they develop. They can’t just toss the support over to someone else and forget about it. Consequently, they have a strong incentive to write more resilient software.

2. Assign teams and team roles

First of all, you should create teams and assign each team on-call duties for every service. Ensure that when a customer has an issue, the on-call engineer on the right team is notified.

Applying DevOps practices helps here as well. The on-call engineer should be able to quickly contact other teammates as needed if they need assistance.

3. Automate menial on-call tasks

Cut down on overhead by grabbing some on-call scheduling software to automate minor tasks and reduce needless work.

For example, your software could automatically notify engineers of a customer issue via Slack or email.

You’ll cut down on time, which helps your team address more issues faster and improve your customer service. It also reduces human error, as you won’t have to worry about reaching out to the wrong person.

4. Set up escalation policies

Set a clear structure for who is contacted first, second, and so on, and what they must do to address the issue.

That way, you won’t be scrambling to get to the right person to figure out the issue. This saves your team time and, once again, enhances customer service.

5. Be proactive about discovering incidents

The best way to prevent incidents from affecting customers is to identify and address them beforehand.

Doing so boosts customer satisfaction with your product—or rather, prevents a customer satisfaction decrease. Customers don’t think twice about a smooth-running product, but they’ll get frustrated when bugs or errors appear.

6. Monitor on-call performance metrics

Tracking metrics is essential to maintaining an on-call rotation that operates like a well-oiled machine. It helps your people address issues better and find areas of improvement.

Some metrics you can track include the following:

  • Number of pages per engineer: You can use this metric to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of your engineers themselves. Additionally, you can measure how well your product performs in certain areas.
  • Number of hours an engineer is paged: This metric can offer similar information to measuring the number of pages per engineer.
  • Number of non-business hours paged: A high number of non-business hours paged could signal that your team receives too many on-call pages—they might be overwhelmed. With this in mind, perhaps you can seek ways to reduce work or even have a site reliability engineer to help out.

An effective on-call rotation benefits everyone

A reliable and effective on-call rotation takes some effort to develop, but it will significantly benefit your company and customers. Make sure to follow these best practices when building your on-call rotation so that you can experience the advantages as soon as possible.

Cortex can help you create an excellent on-call system by catching services without on-call rotations and suggesting ways to improve existing rotations. Book your free demo today.

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