Hardware failures, corrupted software, malicious hacks or even just human error – IT outages are an inevitable fact of life.
In a report from ITIC, 98% of organizations claimed that just one hour of downtime costs the average business over $100,000. In enterprises, that number skyrockets to between $1-5 million.
Unplanned outages come out of nowhere and cause destruction and chaos, putting both your business and operations at risk as well as costing time and money.
How you handle an unplanned outage is crucial in mitigating its effects. The good news is that it’s easy if you’re prepared.
Mapping out a strategy doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. We’ve put together this handy guide to make sure you can tackle your outage communications like a pro.
Step One: Have A Plan In Place
When an IT outage strikes, having a well-defined plan in place for system outages drives operational efficiency, improves recovery time, reduces cost and alleviates panic. That means if something does go wrong, you know what to do, who to call and where to start.
Your plan should include:
Defining An IncidentKnow what constitutes an incident and what doesn’t. Establish clear thresholds for incident severity, with measurable metrics.
Training Your Team
Keep the team up to date on the latest threats and cyber security techniques, implement regular/annual training from system vendors and define back-up systems in advance.
Training the wider team in security awareness using Quizzes can also help reduce the number of high-risk security incidents that occur.
Practicing Your PlanWorking through worst-case-scenarios means you can revisit and improve your current strategy and identify places for improvement.
Crafting the perfect communication takes time that you might not have. Having pre-configured outage notification templates ready to go saves time and effort. You can then easily edit specific details closer to the time.
Try our pre-configured IT outage notifications for yourself with a free 30-day trial of SnapComms.
Step Two: Mobilize Your Response Team
Have a clear and simple process for identifying, notifying and bringing together subject matter experts. Identify who is responsible for which tasks, what they’ll be doing and the process you’ll use to track and measure their response.
Appoint An Incident CommanderUsually this person is a member of the IT or DevOps team. They have the most authority and responsibility seeing the incident through from beginning to end, managing resources and setting up the communications and documentation, during and after resolution.
Appoint A Communications Lead
They’ll be responsible for translating technical jargon into information customers and internal stakeholders can understand and making sure they’re sent through the right communication channels. For smaller incidents, the Incident Commander subsumes this role.
A defined service outage notification strategy streamlines workflow, minimizes impact and contributes to a faster resolution.
Step Three: Define Your Communication Channels and Messages
Establish what channels you’ll be using for outage messages and how you’ll use them well ahead of time.
When communicating internally, it’s important to carefully select your channels. Tool toggling wastes time, creates opportunities to miss important information, and makes it difficult to manage and track responsibilities.
Here are some good general IT communication tips:
- Achieve instant cut-through for critical messages using Desktop Alerts, sent directly to employee desktops and mobile screens.
- Create a status page to act as a central resource for updates. Establishing a single source of truth means everyone knows where to go for verifiable and accurate information.
- Go mobile – smartphones are essential for getting information out to employees not based at desks. An employee communication app can make sure you target the right people at the right time and keep track of who’s viewed your communications.
- Provide updates through scrolling on-screen Tickers, keeping speculation at bay and minimizing disruptive helpdesk calls.
Step Four: Communicate Early, Regularly and Concisely
Now your response team knows what to do and what’s going on, it's time to talk to everyone else affected when an outage occurs. What you say and how you say it plays a huge role in how it’s received.
Start EarlyEmployees need information fast to stay productive. Proactive communication allows you to control the narrative around the incident. Acknowledge the issue, summarize its impact and then promise additional updates.
Communicate RegularlyIssue regular updates to the incident response team, stakeholders, customer service support teams and your end users. Use message targeting and scheduling to ensure your communications reach the right audiences.
Recurrence options should be used to guarantee 100% readership by repeatedly displaying messages until employees read them.
Regular communication reinforces trust and alleviates panic. People assume the worst when they’re kept in the dark, so saying there’s nothing to report is better than saying nothing at all.
Provide short, snappy, high-level updates. Making sure this information is clear, concise and accurate will help those affected carry on efficiently. End users don’t need all the details – they just need to know what’s happened, what’s been done, the duration and how it affects them.
Step Five: Provide A Post-Mortem
While they can be a source of frustration and disruption, incidents are also a useful learning opportunity for IT teams.
After every IT outage, conduct an incident post-mortem. It gives everyone an idea of what happened, how it happened and why – turning a problem into progress. This helps cut down future resolution time, uncovers opportunities for improvement and lessens repeat incidents.
Introduce staff surveys to invite feedback from your response team, end users and stakeholders across the business. This is a great way to build trust and confidence with everyone affected.
For more tips, tools and advice on handling system outages, visit our IT communications page and get your copy of the 10 point plan for improving IT communications