Sunday, January 15, 2012

Managing incoming emails

Reading emails all day long tends to be very counter-productive for me. I usually end up responding faster than anyone else which generally gets me a lot more work than I need. At the same time, I have a responsibility during my times as primary and secondary on-call to respond within our service level agreement. So - how do I find balance? My team and I use mailing lists to help us manage those truly urgent issues versus those issues that can be handled as time allows. We have three lists:

We've published these three lists to our operations center. Everyone else just gets the admin list. We don't tell others about the primary and secondary lists because anything we'd get on primary or secondary would need to come via the operations center anyway. We also don't want our over 600 co-workers (not on our team and not in the NOC) to email us willy-nilly using our on-call emails.

Next, on each of our team's smart phones, we've set them up to recognize emails going specifically to the primary and secondary emails so our phones will either go off like a pager or (in my case) read the sender and destination email (think "Inbound Primary email from the NOC"). That prevents me from having to look at my phone every time a new message comes in but lets me know when there's something that requires my attention.

The other thing we do is to make it easy to change the destination for the primary address easily so that only primary gets notified. Secondary is notified in the same way but on my two-man team, there are only two of us so secondary always goes to the whole team (for now).

Finally, to help us have reasonable sanity, I do what I can to only check the "other" emails twice a day.

The  net result of this process is I am able to focus on getting project work done between routine email readings and it lets others figure things out for themselves or wait a bit for an answer. If it was truly urgent, the sender could simply ask the NOC to reach out to the on-call person to get a faster response.

How do you deal with your on-call processes and email?

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