5 tips for a more modern and efficient on-call management

Daniel Weiß
December 6, 2022
Table of Contents:

On-call management is one of the most important aspects of seamless IT service. Its aim is to ensure that the right person is notified in the case of an incident, so that they can react accordingly as quickly as possible. In certain cases, many people have to be notified. To achieve this as efficiently as possible, it is vital to have an up-to-date and smoothly functioning system.

Efficient on-call management helps to avoid costly down-times, and to guarantee that critical incidents are dealt with swiftly. However, on-call management is all too often inefficient and frustrating. So here are five tips to achieve a highly efficient and modern on-call management.

As is the case in many other areas, the heart of on-call management today is a software application which can interact with other services, solutions, and tools. We have structured this article around this, as well as around the chain of events which are worked through during an incident.

  1. Automation and management of on-call scheduling and escalation
  2. Integration of on-call management
  3. Alerts and notifications
  4. Call routing
  5. Reporting and analysis

So, let’s begin!

1. Automation and management of on-call scheduling and escalation

First of all, you need a solid foundation in on-call management. Meaning, your system and on-call team need to be perfectly in sync. State of the art software for on-call management helps your organization to achieve this by allowing you to manage and automate your on-call scheduling efficiently and reliably. This includes ensuring that every shift is staffed appropriately.

Modern software enables your team to manage their own on-call schedules and shift changes. The alternative could lead to faulty planning, which is time-consuming and costly. Automatic on-call notifications remind your team before their shifts begin. This system helps you to keep track of on-call responsibilities, and makes it easier to manage shift changes and replacements at short notice.

Escalation protocols are also vital here. What happens if someone from the on-call team is absent or uncontactable? Modern software helps here too, by supporting with the management and activation of these protocols and associated alerting routes, based on the on-call schedule at hand. 

Speaking of alerts - on-call schedules and escalation chains must also be able to simply integrate with the alarm source. The key element of modern on-call management is the holistic approach, allowing all processes and events to be coordinated, like a Swiss watch. So, let's take a look at the other integrations.

2. Integration of on-call management

Good on-call management contacts you via the most efficient channels. This is achieved by integration with the systems that you use for your work. This starts with common chat and collaboration tools, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and so on. Next, of course, you need to integrate incident management and ticketing systems. Examples of ITSM (IT Service Management) software include JIRA, ServiceNow or Zendesk.

Even the best on-call software isn’t good for much, if it can’t easily be connected with your monitoring, ticketing, or support hotline systems.

The integration of alternative avenues of communication can also be of crucial importance during an incident. In case of a faulty or missing internet connection, it can be hugely beneficial to continue communication via good old SMS. This increases the chances of alerts and notifications reaching those responsible promptly.

3. Alerts and notifications

On the topic of alerts and notifications - this is the next decisive step in the on-call management chain.

It goes without saying that this must be a totally watertight system in order to handle incidents as quickly as possible. In case you didn’t know - downtime costs an average of $9,000 per minute. So, in order to best reach the people on-call, you should have the following options to fall back on:

Push & E-Mail notifications

This includes push notifications to smartphones, tablets and smartwatches. There are also providers that support "critical alerts". This means that you receive notifications about high-priority incidents even if your phone is muted or set to “do not disturb”. Notifications via email are also not to be overlooked. Sophisticated solutions allow you to confirm, escalate or resolve incidents with just one or two clicks.

SMS & Voice Notifications

We have already mentioned SMS. However, while it is possible to miss a text message while fast asleep, a voice notification via call is more penetrative, and can get someone out of bed even at 3am.

Intelligent alerts

Furthermore, modern on-call management allows for various possibilities regarding the alerts themselves. This means the execution of user-defined actions, both manual and automatic. You can, for example, set up a series of actions to save valuable time or carry out system-critical actions directly.

Alert acknowledgement

In order to avoid unnecessary escalation and needlessly alerting other channels, it should be easy to acknowledge alerts. For example by confirming, escalating, or resolving alerts with a single click. This could be by simply replying with a number to a text or call.

Alert timelines

An alert timeline also provides information. This gives you insight into an alert by keeping a record of all associated incidents, including notifications, assignments, preceding events, and alert actions. You'll need this data when investigating and diagnosing the incident to create a lasting solution.

4. Call routing

Intelligent call routing is a must in modern on-call management. It allows calls to be forwarded appropriately based on the defined escalation guidelines as well as the on-call schedule. The option to leave a voicemail is also beneficial if the person responsible cannot be reached or is unable to call at that moment.

5. Reporting and analysis

Last but not least, a detailed analysis of incidents is also of considerable importance in on-call management in order to continually optimize incidents and their surrounding processes. That's why modern solutions offer a range of helpful reports:

On-call reports

On-call reports give technicians and managers insight into all operations during on-call time and provide key metrics such as time spent on-call, number of incidents, and timespan of incident resolution. These metrics also allow for simple compensation for time spent on-call.

Reports on alerts

These provide detailed information about key metrics such as MTTA and MTTR. Filter functions for these reports let you look even deeper.

Publishing reports

This allows you to share reports outside your organization for external shareholders. 

Reports on notifications

Here you can check the number of notifications which were sent out in a given time period. A filter for the method of notification can often reveal which methods are the most successful in certain cases.

On-call management is an important process for every company that aims to provide excellent service for its customers. With the tips given in this article, you can set up your on-call management to be more efficient and modern. You can also ensure that your customers get the best possible service. And, as a result, you’ll probably be able to sleep a little better at the end of the day.

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