Published on September 3rd, 2020 | by Sunit Nandi


How To Effectively Use Runbooks

In the IT world, it’s important that every step of a process is clearly mapped out for tasks to be completed effectively. Runbooks solve this problem by creating standardized documentation, procedures, and references to guide you through a particular task. They’re also enormously helpful when it’s necessary to troubleshoot a particular issue. Even if you’re old hat in the IT world, runbooks can be a very useful tool. By utilizing the following tips, you’ll be able to use runbooks to help you become more efficient and consistent in your work.

1. Stay Updated

In the tech world, software is constantly receiving upgrades and updates, and it’s essential that you pay attention and make sure your runbooks are operating on the newest possible information. Within Site Reliability Engineering (SRE), for example, it’s crucial that you’re able to maintain functionality in the case of time-sensitive issues, and that problems that have been solved before do not take up valuable time. There are a variety of ways to maintain your runbook’s accuracy, but by using your incident reports and postmortems, you can easily identify the changes your runbooks need to undergo to be reliable. Making sure your team is up to date on what’s going wrong and how they can fix it will make their work easier and less frustrating. Most importantly, by keeping communication open, you will ensure that they feel they can come forward with any issues that should potentially be added to the runbook’s documentation. You could even stage incidents at regular intervals to test and retest your team’s ability to work with the runbook for problem solving.

2. Focus Your Efforts

One of the first things you should do when starting out with runbooks is identify what exactly you’re hoping to accomplish. The best way to achieve clear focus on the task at hand is by utilizing incident reports and postmortems. By filing postmortems and incident reports, you’ll be able to gather crucial data about what went wrong, where it went wrong, and how the problem was eventually solved. It’ll be much easier to understand from this data what problems are the most recurrent and from there decide what you should be focusing on with your runbooks. Creating a plan of action should be the next step from here. You can create detailed procedures for what should be done during specific incidents, such as who should be contacted and tips for solving the issue. This will save a lot of time down the road when your team members are able to take immediate action with the information provided, rather than waiting for advice on what to do next.

3. Collect Feedback

To know if a runbook is still working for you and fulfilling crucial needs, it’s essential to gather some feedback from whoever is using the runbook. The best way to go about this is to have mandatory, regular surveys with a good template that’s easy to follow. That way you’ll be able to gather essential information like how the issue was uncovered, how big of an issue it is, and what they might think the issue could be related to.

From the big picture perspective, it can be difficult to know if the runbook is truly doing what it needs to do. If the site is still functioning properly, you may be tempted to just sit back and let the runbook handle things. But it’s absolutely essential that you continue to gather relevant information and that the information is used to consistently improve the runbook’s operations.

Staying on top of your runbooks may seem time consuming at first, but once you’ve gotten your system in place, it’ll save you time and money. Your IT operations will be fully standardized, and nobody will have to waste time solving problems that have been solved before. The more time you invest into optimizing your runbook, the more you’ll discover it can do for you.

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About the Author

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I'm the leader of Techno FAQ. Also an engineering college student with immense interest in science and technology. Other interests include literature, coin collecting, gardening and photography. Always wish to live life like there's no tomorrow.

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