Establishing On-call Roles

Creating a repeatable response plan means establishing who does what when something goes wrong. We don’t want there to be any question around who is supposed to be doing what. Because of this, it is important to establish roles and the associated expectations. This isn’t a separation of duties exercise. In fact, we want to encourage less of that. It is however, a way of establishing better coordination and communication. It prevents people from stepping on each others toes while enabling cross-collaboration amongst not only on-call rosters, but an entire organization.

Identifying the Communication Coordinator

The Communication Coordinator is meant to be the person working in conjunction with the incident commander to share more information beyond those who are in the firefight actively working to recover from the incident itself. That could be customers. It could be the sales and marketing teams. Maybe your customer support. There are many people within an organization who need to be made aware of what’s taking place and the status around how things are progressing.

Identifying the Incident Commander

Another key role to identify, in many cases, is the incident commander. An incident commander can be extremely helpful when you have got a large-scale outage that effects a lot of different components or requires coordination across many teams and different systems. They are great for making sure that engineers stay focused and they are working on their own remediation efforts… Ensuring people are not stepping on each other or undoing each other’s work.

Identifying the Primary Responder

The first role we need to talk about is the “Primary Responder” – the Primary “On-call” engineer. This person is expected to acknowledge their awareness of an incident once the alert has been received. Next steps Identifying the Secondary Responder

Identifying The Scribe

The scribe’s role is to document the conversation in as much detail as possible. Teams commonly use phone bridges, conference calls, or video chat to get everyone together and try to understand what is going on, which can certainly help create space for the conversation. However, it is difficult for us to go through and understand in detail what the engineers were saying and doing unless it is transcribed. As a result, a scribe is that person who can help us document as much as possible to review later.

Identifying the Secondary Responder

Then we have the secondary responder – who is there as back up -Another engineer who can step in if the primary responder is unavailable or unreachable. Or if they just need another pair of eyes. Next steps Identifying The Incident Commander

Identifying the Subject Matter Experts

It’s quite common within on-call rosters to identify subject matter experts, so that early responders know who to escalate too quickly. These people should not be on call all the time, of course, but we do want to be able to identify who is our database expert. Who is our front-end expert? Who are the people that we can reach out to if our primary and secondary responders are not able to diagnose and resolve the issue themselves?