Re: Slight OT: Remote DBA team & effective support & communication
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2011 15:10:17 -0500
The DBA team I am on is not as remote as yours, but we have 5 people in an office in virginia
1 person who works from home down state
3 people in florida (2 permanently work from home) 3 people in India (handle over night work) We have developers in several other states. The client headquarters is in the midwest. I talk to them on the phone, but I have not met any of them. There are also Systems Administrators in Europe and India as well (they follow the sun for 24x7 support). 2 days ago, I was on the phone with a customer in England who was having performance problems. I can work from home whenever I want.
Before joining this team in May, I spent 2 years on a micro-managed government project where we were not allowed to work from home unless it was explicitly approved in advance. So I can compare and constrast. This company has been managing remote groups for years.
Here are some things I have noticed that make this situation work.
- Managers know how to manage remote employees. They have experience doing it. I am not sure how to explain this. I am just comparing it to the silly micromanagement no one got anything done ever management from the government project I was on.
- There is not any micromanagement. I tell my manager far more than he ever asks me. I can pretty much do what I want (with in reason). " Is every DBA REQUIRED to set up a set of Outlook rules for managing support-related email? " No. Never mentioned. Micro-management does not work on remote team. I don't have an SMS plan on my phone, so I would not auto-forward anything. I have a pager, but I only need it when I am oncall(the India team handles overnight work during the week). You need an oncall rotation and oncall pagers or blackberries. Our crontabs can send pages.
- The people that are hired here are the kind of people that can work on teams like this. People who work to 'not my fault' and think working on a problem is send an email and then surf the web. You get a response 2 days later, it is not 100% of what you want, so you send 1 more email and surf the web wouldn't last long here. Or people who think working from home is a day off.
- Instant messenger is critical. Need to be on all day when you are at work.
- Like all operations team, we get tons of emails. I send them to folders. Other people don't. I don't read 80% of my email. Other people read all of it. See 'lack of micromanagement'.
- People should be assigned specific tasks/databases to monitor. Probably need backup. People here can pick up different tasks, but there is 1-2 people that handle most things. This way everyone does not need to read every email or be involved in every meeting
- Weekly 1 hour meeting where we discuss everything. The Indians call in from home. It is harder to do this with as many timezones that your team is in. You may need to rotate the time and people who would be overnight at that time, will miss it. Can always have someone take notes and send a short email.
- Team Wiki page is very useful (we use plone. it has more features). This way people can document what they worked on and you don't need as much email. you can also document procedures, scripts, etc... People need to be willing to do this.
- You need an oncall rotation. Setup oncall responsibilities and which critical emails go to a pager. Company should provide this. As I said, I don't have an SMS plan, so I would not be willing to send emails to my phone. I don't use text messenging. Oncall person needs to be able to actually fix problems. From experience, it is utterly annoying to get paged for the exact same issues at 2 AM for 2 years and not be allowed to fix it. But be expected to get up, click a couple buttons and be required to send out an email stating "I am watching this".
I think most of it is the type of people who work here and that managers know how to manage remote teams. You need people who don't need to be micromanaged(lets face it many people won't do anything without micromanagement) and you need managers who get it. That is more than just 1 manager. Since some places have micromanagement as a culture where the managers are micromanaged by their managers. If someone told me I was required to set up mailbox folders there way, I would go 'ok' and then ignore them.
The other problem you may run into is the 'we have always done it this way'. So things are a mess because they have always been a mess and no one wants to bother changing since it has always been that way. You can't fight city hall. If that is your situation, look for a new job. Those jobs suck.