Want email updates from me?
Want more unvarnished truth?
Looking for something? Look here!
What I'm saying now
What you're saying...
I think tag clouds are pretty, and not to be taken overly seriously
111 Chop House 75 on Liberty Wharf 9/11 A Broth of a Boy ABCs Abiouness accountability activities alcohol Allora Ristorante Analysis Angry Hams ANSI/TIA 942 Anthony's Pier 4 Apple Application Armsby Abbey Arsenal Arturo's Ristorante Ashland AT&T Audio Automation baby Baby Monitor babysitting Back To School Bad News Bangkok Thai Bar Bay State Common baystateparent BBQ BCP BeeZers Before I die I want to... behavior Big Bang Bike Bill of Rights Bistro Black Box BlackBerry Boston Boston Marathon boundaries Boyston BPO brand Breakfast Bridge Bring Your Own Technology Budget Burlington Burn Burrito buyer BYOD Cabling Cambridge Camp Campaign career Casey's Diner Castle casual cCabling Cell Phone Central Square Change Management Cheers Chef Sun ChengDu Chet's Diner Children Chinese Christmas Christmas Families Holiday CIO Cloud coddle collage College College Acceptance co-lo Co-Location Co-Location Tier Power Cooling Comfort Food Control Country Country Kettle Crisis customer dad Dad Phrases damage daredevil Data Center Data Center Design Davios Day Care Dead Death declaration Del Frisco's Design Desktop Video dinner Disaster Recovery Divorce Do Epic Shit dodgeball Downtown Crossing DR driving Droid Easter Economic Kids Edaville Education Elbow Night Elevator Employee Engagement Erin Etiquette Evaluation events Exchange Expiration Dates Facebook Failing family Fatherhood Favorite things Flash Flemings Fogo de Chão Food Hits and Misses Format Foundry on Elm Foxborough Frameworks fraternity Fraud French Fried Clams friends fun Fusion Generations germs Girl Scouts girls Global Go/No Go GPS Grafton Grandchild Grandpa Harry's hazing Healthcare Healthy Choices while Dining Out Help Desk Hisa Japanese Cuisine Historic holiday Home hope Horizons hose Hot Dog Hurricane IIT Assessment incident Indecision Indian Infrastructure Inn Innovation Internet Inventory Management iPhone IT IT Assessment IT Satisfaction Italian Jack Daniels Jakes Restaurant Janet Japanese Jazz Joey's Bar and Grill JP's Khatta Mitha kickball kids Laid off Lakes Region Lala Java Leadership Learning legacy Legal Harborside Les Zygomates L'Espalier Liberty Wharf lights out Linguine's loss Love Lucky's Cafe M&M Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade mai tai Managed Application Services Managed Services managers Mandarin Manners Mark Fidrych marriage Mary Chung mass save Maxwell-Silverman Mediterranean meetings Memorial Day memory Mendon Mergers Mexican MiFi Migration Ming III miss MIT MIT CIO Symposium Mobility Moes Hot Dog Truck MOM money Mother Moving on Name neanderthal neighborhood Network New York Marathon newborn Northborough Not Your Average Joe's Nuovo Nursing On-Call Operations Operators Oregon Club Organization Pancakes Pandemic Parental Control Parenting Patch Peeves People Perserverance UMASS growth Play Plug and Run Predictable Pride Problem Process Production program Project Management propane PTA. PTO PUE QR Quick Response Rant Real Estate Realtor Recognition Red Rock Resiliency Respect restaurant Restaurant Guy RFP ribs Ritual Root Cause Analysis Sam Adams Sandy Sapporo savings School Sea Dog Brewing Company Sea Dog Steak and Ale Seafood Seaport Security Sel de la Terra Service Service Desk Service Indicator Light sharing SHIRO Shit Pump Shriners SHTF Simplification Skunk Works Skype Sleep sleepovers Sloan Smith & Wollensky soccer Son SOP sorority spanking Squarespace staffing Starbucks Status Reporting Steak Steve Jobs Storage Strategy stress Summer Sushi swimming Tacos Acalpulco teacher Technology Teen Telephony Temperature Strip Tenka terrorist Testing Texas BBQ Company Text Thai Thanksgiving in IT The Mooring Thomas Thought Leader Three Gorges III TIA 942 Timesheets Toby Keith Toddlers traditions Transition treehouse turnover TV Twitter unspoken moments Valentine's Day Value Vendor Venezuelan Verizon Vermont Video Vietnamese voice VoIP Watertown Wedding Westborough Korean Restaurant Westborough MA. StormCam WiFI Wi-Fi Wilbraham Wine Worcester work work life balance working Yama Zakura Zem Han Zitis

Entries in On-Call (1)

Monday
Sep032012

What it Means to be On-Call in Information Technology

I don’t know of a business able to have 24x7 staffed coverage for all critical functions.  Some businesses might do a follow the sun model, others have a relatively small “command center” reaching out to support organizations when the command center can’t address an issue, some simply go without.

Inevitably some support is provided via an on-call function.  There are many ways organizations can schedule “on-call”, and those constructs can be addressed in another post.  This post is about what you should do when you are on-call.

It’s actually pretty simple.  If you are on call, you need to be able to be reached and able to troubleshoot.

Being on-call is about being accountable for the issue being escalated to you.  The group escalating either doesn’t know how to resolve the issue, or the standard operating practices (like separation of duties) prevents it.  In other words, they need help…and ultimately the customers of the system in trouble need help.

Let’s examine some of the behaviors needed by on-call staff:

  • Be reachable – Yes, there are still places where cell phones don’t work.  They are generally few and far between.  So make sure your cell phone is charged and works.  If you live in an area with spotty cell coverage, consider a repeater or switch services.

I know one person who says she sleeps with her SmartPhone under her pillow so it wakes her.  Good idea!  Do whatever it takes for you to be reachable.

  • Be kind – If you are awoken from a sound sleep, you get to grumble a bit.  People that either hang up, ask “why are you calling me,” or state “this is not my job” need to understand the command center is reaching out to get help for a critical issue.
  • Be available – Being reachable allows the command center to make contact.  Now you have to be available.   It’s my view unless blood is involved on-call staff must be available to deal with issues.  If you are not available, it is virtually the same as being unreachable.  Concerts, important dinners, kids events, etc are all known in advance….get someone else to cover for you! 
  • Be able to work –Once, on a critical issue audio bridge, an on-call person announced, “I am happy to help but I’m 60 minutes away from a PC.”  What good was that?

My son, who is occasionally on-call supporting physicians, and I independently came to the same conclusion: get a portable modem for the PC.  I have a portable modem and can tether from my cell phone…and the modem/cell phone are on different carrier networks.  When he is on-call, my son logs into the network in the evening, so he doesn’t have to go through any set up process in the middle of the night if called.  He makes a point of never being more than 10 minutes away from being able to work.

  • Be prepared – I carry a plastic folder of key contact information and critical documentation.  Having it saves me time of trying to locate it online at point of crisis.

What happens when these behaviors are not followed?  Ultimately the customer of the system suffers and this is unacceptable.  Managers need to treat failures in the same way they would any other issue.  In other words, they need to use the progressive discipline process (such as verbal warning, written warning, termination.) 

Harsh?  Frankly not at all.  This is what we are being paid to do.  (It’s even more pronounced in organizations where being “on-call” results in supplemental pay.)

One last point.  In IT, were always on-call.  That doesn’t mean we are expected to carry a laptop everywhere and not have a life.  It does mean we need to be helpful to others when they call.

Do you end up with too many support calls?  Give thought to what YOU can do to prevent this.  In many cases, if the on-call person did just a little better job up front, the on-call requirements would be less.  In other words, look to yourself for improvement.

What are your experiences with on-call?