On-Call Schedules are predefined rotations/shifts assigning team members to be available for incident response at specific times. They are essential for ensuring round-the-clock support, swift issue/incident resolution, and continuous service availability. For a robust On-Call system, proper schedules are essential serving as the backbone of reliable Incident Response, and ensuring your team is well-prepared to address technical challenges effectively. In this blog, we'll explore On-Call schedules in detail.
IT teams often have On-Call schedules in place to ensure right responders can rapidly respond to system outages, software glitches, or security breaches. With effective On-Call schedules in place, responders will not be required to address issues outside of regular working hours.
Customer support also benefits from well defined On-Call schedules helping them in addressing customer issues and be available 24/7 by breaking their work into more manageable shifts
With 24/7 availability, rapid incident response, better escalation policies, documentation and easy handover can help Organizations maintain their SLAs commitments.
Financial institutions utilize On-Call schedules for security analysis and fraud detection teams to respond to suspicious activities and breaches in real-time.
In global financial markets, traders and market analysts can respond to market-moving events outside of regular trading hours if they have well defined On-Call schedules.
Check this out: Squadcast helps organizations maintain 99% SLAs
Before setting up a robust On-Call schedule, a critical foundational step is assessing your team's needs. This involves a comprehensive analysis of your organization's specific requirements and capabilities. A sound approach to it can be:
Commence by creating a comprehensive catalog of all the services, systems, and applications under your team's purview. This includes mission-critical, less critical, and even seemingly unrelated ones that can still impact core operations.
By categorizing these services based on their importance to the organization, you set the stage for efficient resource allocation and better preparedness.
Review your existing SLAs or establish new ones. Define the expected response times, resolution times, and escalation procedures for each service or system.
Consider the expectations of your internal or external customers. What level of service do they require, and how does this impact your On-Call strategy?
Analyzing historical data and incident logs unveils workload trends, common issues, and opportunities for added support. Ensuring a fair distribution of On-Call responsibilities among team members promotes a healthy work-life balance.
Choosing the appropriate tools to support your On-Call scheduling process is crucial for its success. Begin by researching and evaluating Incident Management platforms that suit your organization's requirements.
Our Incident Management Platform has top integrations to make it work for you, check more here: Squadcast Monitoring Integrations
Establishing a clear and fair rotation system minimizes burnout and maintains team morale. Determine the optimal rotation length based on the size of your team and the nature of incidents you encounter. Common choices include, business hours, non-business hours, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly rotations. Implement a well-defined transition process as team members hand over On-Call duties to their colleagues.
Choosing appropriate shift durations is crucial to strike a balance between responsiveness and avoiding fatigue. Determine the ideal shift duration based on your team's capacity and the nature of incidents. Common shifts range from 8 to 12 hours, but it may vary based on operational needs. Consider incorporating overlap periods between shifts to help address ongoing incidents and sharing critical updates.
Safeguarding work-life balance, accommodating holidays and ensuring time off for your team is vital. Plan for holiday coverage well in advance. Ensure that the team members have the opportunity to request specific days off while maintaining essential coverage. Having backup resources available to cover for team members on leave makes it easier for everyone.
Squadcast allows you to automate On-Call schedules by setting them up to recur. You can refer to this video tutorial for better understanding.
You can easily reassign members & add overrides to manage emergency absence and holidays. While it also helps you send seamless notifications to On-Call Responders through sound Escalation Policy. When everything’s integrated with your calendar & ChatOps tools, it becomes easy to acknowledge or reassign incidents.
To create an escalation policy in Squadcast, follow these steps:
Once you have created an escalation policy, you can assign it to incidents when you create them. To do this, open the incident and select the escalation policy from the Escalation Policy dropdown menu.
Here are some tips for creating effective escalation policies:
Check more on: managing On-Call Schedules.
For effective On-Call scheduling, it's important to take into consideration the nature and severity of incidents, team's skills and preferences, and response urgency. An Incident Management Platform must offer consolidated information, notifications, and tracking, going beyond email, SMS, and push notifications.
Escalation policies are your safety net to ensure that incidents don't go unaddressed. They outline the steps to be taken if the primary On-Call person doesn't respond or if the situation escalates. Some best practices would be:
Squadcast has one of the most flexible escalation policies which makes sure that organizations never miss an incident notification and they get escalated to the right members.
Critical alerts can come in anytime! Their level of attention and urgency sets them apart from standard incidents. How can you handle critical incidents better & efficiently?
Eventually everything boils down to maintaining service reliability and learning from past experiences. Incident documentation will always have your back. Few things to keep in mind would be:
The steps discussed above provide a solid foundation for enhancing operational efficiency and delivering a responsive Incident Management environment.
Squadcast is a Reliability Workflow platform that integrates On-Call alerting and Incident Management along with SRE workflows in one offering. Designed for a zero-friction setup, ease of use and clean UI, it helps developers, SREs and On-Call teams proactively respond to outages and create a culture of learning and continuous improvement.