As a problem-free application user, it might appear that program functionality is as simple as press and go and nothing ever breaks. But any IT staff member or engineer, working in the complex and often hybrid IT environments of today, knows that’s fantasy, not reality.
The truth is, there are a lot of moving pieces, operational code, systems, and dependencies that must function accurately in order for the application, as a whole, to function correctly. And when one of those pieces runs out of alignment, it’s not long before an application outage can occur.
So, what happens when there’s a malfunctioning cog in the system? If this has ever happened to you, you’ve likely submitted a support ticket. Pretty simple. But on the other side of the support ticket lies a company’s incident management systems. In other words, how they process, prioritize, and resolve technical support issues.
At Coyote Creek, we use Atlassian’s Opsgenie as our Incident and Alerting management system. In this post, we’re going to go in-depth into what Opsgenie is, the modern-day expectations for incident management (which Opsgenie provides), and how you can use its robust features to streamline your application and system alerts.
After all, problems happen. They always will. How a company handles them is what really makes the difference in customer satisfaction and revenue growth.
What is Opsgenie?
Time wasted sifting through notifications, not responding to, or slowly resolving critical issues can result in unhappy customers and ultimately, lost revenue.
Opsgenie solves this by rapidly identifying and enabling quick responsiveness via its Incident Response Orchestration platform. It helps organizations identify and prioritize critical issues, notify the right on-call staff member, and facilitates communication and collaboration to resolve tickets promptly.
Opsgenie’s cloud-based incident response platform is reliable, built on high-availability architecture, replicated in multiple data centers, and monitored 24/7/365.
Critical Elements for Modern Incident Management
In today’s enterprise environment, manual processes and inefficient operations are simply not an option. But as an organization is beginning to reimagine their long-held processes, it can be challenging to determine where to start.
So in this section, we want to break down some of the challenges most common in outmoded incident management and alerting processes to help develop a strategic process that reflects the realities and expectations of today.
The following six focus areas will enable you to improve your alerts process and mean time to resolution (MTTR).
Step 1: Identify Vital Systems and Aggregate Alerts
One of the easiest low-hanging fruit to tackle is alert fatigue, or sending the same alerts over and over. This monopolizes inboxes and can mask critical alerts. Eliminate non-actionable alerts and duplicate notifications, and focus primarily on your most critical system alerts.
Step 2. Create an Appropriate Scheduling Model
Your alert system is only as effective as your ability to have available resources to receive the alert and take action. You must have a way to ensure that the right person receives alerts at the right time, in the manner anticipated so that they can take action quickly to resolve the problem.
Step 3. Use Automation to Filter and Route Alerts
Automation is the cornerstone of a strong, efficient modern Incident Management and Alerting system. In fact, we feel you should automate as many elements of incident management as possible from routing alerts to the appropriate party, to avoiding duplicate notifications, to streamlining communication workflows and status updates.
Step 4. Communication Channels
It’s important to remember that every incident affects the user, the responder, and your key stakeholders and each of these may have their own preferred method of communication whether it be a chat application, email, telephone, web page, or other form of communication. It’s important to make sure that you’re communicating, throughout the incident, with each party where they are. There should be protocols in place so that communication occurs routinely on the appropriate channel for each party.
Step 5. Monitoring
To ensure that communication and incident handling is occuring effectively, it’s important to monitor performance routinely. Therefore, we recommend that you implement protocols for monitoring process performance and system health so you always have the visibility you need to remain agile.
Step 6. Perform Post Mortem Analysis
Speaking of monitoring, the value of analyzing the incident management lifecycle after it’s completed can’t be understated. Doing so allows you to pinpoint areas for improvement for the end-user as well as address areas where a negative impact occurred. Your incident management process should include post-mortem data that allows you to analyze how you did and where you can improve.
The great news is, Opsgenie addresses each of these needs. We’re going to explore the robust set of features that Opsgenie includes in the next section.
How to Streamline Incident Management and Alerts Process with Opsgenie
Opsgenie monitors and reports on the entire life cycle of a ticket, allowing operations personnel to analyze incidents and outages and identify areas for improvement.
Opsgenie also consolidates ticket notification management into a central location so employees no longer have to waste time coving through logs or playing the blame game. Furthermore, Opsgenie comes with each of the following robust features to help you eliminate downtime and inefficiency:
Seamless integration with most operations and service tools. Opsgenie acts as a hub, receiving alerts and notifying the right team members through apps like Slack, PagerDuty, StatusPage, Solarwinds, etc…
On-call scheduling gives you the capability to create daily, weekly, or custom rotation schedules and models to be used at different times in different scenarios such as after-hours coverage, weekends, holidays, etc.
Response orchestration ensures the right people are notified of incidents based on specific rules, policies, and notification preferences.
Co-workers can collaborate through video conferencing, if needed, to communicate and resolve an incident. Alternatively, communication can be routed to other collaboration tools.
Opsgenie also notifies stakeholders according to the organizational hierarchy you specify. Alternatively, incident status web pages can be created for stakeholders to check status and application health routinely at their convenience.
If you receive support calls during outages, Opsgenie can route them to the right person using pre-determined on-call schedules. If no one is available to answer, Opsgenie can take a message and automatically send an alert to the right person.
Opsgenie also collects reporting so you can analyze incident data and see how the organization is performing from an operational perspective. Opsgenie offers global reports which provide an account-wide view of notifications, API usage, and MTTA/R (Mean time to assist and respond). The other report Opsgenie offers is team reports which give you insight into team activities and performance.
Incident Postmortem Analysis
With postmortem analysis, you can learn from past incidents, assess the effectiveness of your response practices, and improve your operations moving forward.
If you’re ready to improve and streamline your Incident and Alert Management systems, we invite you to watch our webinar, How to Automate Incident Alerts, and Escalation with Opsgenie.
In this presentation, our Atlassian experts will go deeper into Opsgenie and how you can use it to automate your alerting processes so you never miss a critical alert. We have a limited number of spots available for this webinar, so please register today if you’d like to attend.