7 Tips for Maintenance Outages & How Best To Leverage ServiceNow Task Boards

7 Tips for Maintenance Outages & How Best To Leverage ServiceNow Task Boards

1. Annual maintenance schedules are critical to the success of a business. They deserve advanced planning & detailed attention & shouldn't just be executed on demand to resolve incidents. They need to be executed proactively according to an annual schedule.

You can easily define outage windows for the entire year. Start with a 13 week cycle and build from there. These "mini vacations" for your IT assets, believe it or not, are not only the basis for high availability but more importantly are the foundation for the proactive nature of the IT function itself.

2. Production outage windows should be predefined with exact start & finish times. These times need to be respected. The business needs to know that you can get the work done within the time you told them. This creates trust between the IT function & the business. You don't want to break it.

3. Technical tasks must be executed efficiently and handed off fluidly among all of the technicians like an Olympic relay race. Can you really do this via email? I have been in production outages where email was the primary communication tool. More often than not caused delays & confusion. 

For example, once ERP software services got taken down out of order. I have seen screenshots of tasks marked as completed emailed with rows missing. Once a technician handed off via email, shut down their computer and left for the day. Problem was the email never left the outbox. I am here to tell you there is a better way.

Service Now

4. Typical enterprise type outages have the potential to be very complex often involving hand offs between mixed internal and external IT teams. It is very difficult to work off an email chain and a single spreadsheet. It creates risk.

This can be mitigated with the proper tools. I highly recommend ServiceNow Task board. We use this as our primary tool for many maintenance window outages. 

 We setup the columns for each function like DBA, System Admins and have cards for each server. The technicians drag the servers to each column once they complete their work on that server.

We leave the actual excel type task to be managed by each core group not the Outage Coordinator.

The Outage Coordinator stays on top more concerned with the timing as it relates to the completion of the phases.

They don't get involved with the detailed tasks unless there is an issue. This keeps things clean and simple and easy for all to manage.

5. The # 1 enemy of outages is time. You lose it and you lose the opportunity to resolve issues that may pop up unexpectedly. If you burn that pre-built in time buffer, you lose the opportunity to stay within the defined time slot which causes harm to the IT team's reputation.

6. An Outage Coordinator is critical for the success of an outage. This role coordinates the timing of the changes. He or she monitors the movement of the focused efforts and is there to provide direction to the team. They also escalate any issues, delays, etc. to the business. I've been in some initiatives where there wasn't a direct line to management. The entire initiative was silo-ed. This is not a good idea.

7. An open communication bridge is critical. Always setup a GoToMeeting or Skype session in advanced for the initiative. It provides the ability for the outage team to voice concerns, communicate delays, provide explanations & possible solutions and agree upon direction. Setting up a bridge line in advanced and communicating it via a primary thread email is good practice.

Source:  John Mathieu ►Go.Allari ✩✩✩✩✩

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