12: Communicating on a roller coaster of uptime and downtime
Randy and Don found themselves stranded, mid-ride on the Expedition Everest roller coaster at Disney World's Animal Kingdom. Following their rescue, and during an in-person recording from Orlando, they talk about how a tech manager should handle technical downtime, service interruptions, and critical alerts for users, executives, and investors that depend on services.
- Randy and Don were stranded on the Expedition Everest roller coaster mid-ride due to mechanical failure.
- For the first 10 to 15 minutes, there was no indication that there was a problem at all.
- What is the best way to communicate to users, to managers, to employees when things are not going well?
- When it breaks down, you give the first message of "Something is wrong. You're perfectly safe."
- Usually your upstream provider is the source of most uptime issues.
- For outages, you tend to set a routine amount of time between messages to the stakeholders.
- Sometimes upstream providers will contact your clients before you have a chance to respond to the issue.
- If you send too many notices, stakeholders may tune you out.
- Defining the level of urgency of communications is important, but don't leave things above normal too long.
- Having an SOP standard operating procedure is important for folks that are new to a role at the wrong time.
- Disaster recovery plans are different, because they tend to cover scenarios where a major problem has caused damage.
- A paper copy is necessary due to the fact that online access might be blocked during downtime.
- Breach protocol is another type of process necessary for handling technical issues.
- How much information should you give people about what caused the situation?
- Don't try to walk Disney's Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest ride. The roller coaster is more fun.
- Don experienced a communications issue with the Orlando City MLS team during opening night.
- Setting expectations for users is by far the most important goal early in the downtime communication process.
- Canned messages are typical, because they don't deviate from the message you need to convey.
- Content of messages is also important and consideration of internationalization and multiple languages may be necessary.
- Don't make your users ask, "what the heck are they talking about?" during crisis communications.
- Don't bore your users with repetitive, non-informative content.
- Consider various stakeholders that need to know about the situation. Owners, investors, users, and managers all need different type of info regarding the problems and solutions.
- What channels do you use to distribute communications: email, slack, message boards, ios notifications, android notifications, SMS, push and pull, status page.
- Make sure your status page provider isn't using the same upstream providers that your service is using.
- Know your stakeholders well enough for who needs to know what or who doesn't care.
- Trying to control the entire narrative of the problem can be problematic or even impossible.
- A good post mortem (hindsight report about the outcome) is helpful to explain the problems and the steps you're taking to prevent them in the future.
- Disney World's Animal Kingdom
- Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Atlassian Statuspage
- Randy recommends AirBnB for Orlando Condos
- Randy recommends Lyft and Uber rather than renting a car
- Randy recommends Avatar: Flight of Passage as the best overall ride at Disney, but it comes with a looooong wait.
- Don recommends that you contact him for Disney World tips!
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