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The ROI of Playbooks-as-Code

Guest Writer
01.03.2021
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Reliability Platforms (SRE)

The Challenge

When it comes to incident response, organizations still generally go through traditional motions of paging team members, leveraging documentation and runbooks to investigate and handle the situations, and then measuring response time and quality of these teams. This kind of human-centric approach has never been scalable. When you factor in additional challenges that COVID-19 has brought into the equation around distributed teams and systems, plus the ever-evolving complexity of hybrid and cloud-native architectures, it’s more evident than ever before that a human-centric strategy is an outmoded approach to ensuring reliability of your services.

The Solution

The only way businesses can guarantee reliability of their services under scale is to treat the problems from the engineering perspective — not an operational one. This means developing playbooks-as-code as mechanisms to make your systems more robust. Playbooks-as-code will ensure repeatable success in delivering the alert/incident context, communicating it to the relevant stakeholders, and applying mitigation strategies. With playbooks-as-code, the most efficient response strategy is always applied to each production alert, regardless of which responders are on-call and the quantity and/or frequency of the alerts.

When your playbooks are defined as code, your Incident Response team gains:

  • Faster Mean-Time-to-Resolve (MTTR): By speeding and automating incident response, playbooks-as-code help teams fix issues faster. Teams waste less expensive man-hours, and customers gain better services reliability.
  • Meeting SLOs: By focusing playbooks-as-code on restoring the business-critical flows to production, you will drive a guaranteed (by mechanism) improvement in your SLOs; thereby gaining a repetitive advantage vs. having experts “save the day” time after time. The service outages will become shorter and more scarce, positively impacting on your business goals.
  • Higher ROI: By reducing the time spent on incident response, as well as the manual “toil” it necessitates, playbooks-as-code improve the return on investment that businesses make in their incident response tooling/processes and in their engineering workforce. That is, rather than having to focus on constantly putting out fires, teams can focus on elevating the service experience overall, and creating value for customers.
  • Data-driven incident retrospective: During the incident, human responders are always focused on one thing — bringing the service back to production as quickly as possible. As a result, incident retrospectives are usually built after the fact, collecting information about the incident handling from the recollection of the responders. With playbooks-as-code, every enrichment, triage and mitigation step taken produces a full audit trail, resulting in non-opinionated data driven insights on the sources of the incident and the path to resolution.
  • Ownership made easy: When playbooks are written as code, it becomes much easier – both conceptually and practically – for software engineers to participate in incident response. Procedures are prepared ahead of time and are tested (just like any other code), making their usage during the incident time fast, efficient and reliable.

From the organizational perspective, playbooks-as-code provides these benefits

  • Reduced overhead for service operations, due to the ability to leverage your existing talent pool in the most efficient way
  • Increased satisfaction rate by service users due to higher reliability
  • Reduced headcount of operational specialists
  • Easy compliance with service-related regulation frameworks (such as SOC 2, ITIL, ISO2700X), with clearly defined and scalable operations
  • Higher employee satisfaction, allowing them to be proactive and creative, instead of manually putting out fires reactively

Contact us for a demo and start defining and executing a service operations strategy for your business.

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