As we approach the holiday season, I wanted to share a few project management tips to help increase the level of preparedness during peak traffic days.
See the following (in no particular order):
Confirm focals, update contact sheet
Peak means all hands on desk. You must be able to reach out to anybody that is needed without delay, from any of the teams involved ( development, business, operations, support, etc). There should be focals for every key area, contact sheets and named backups. For external teams (e.g. hosting, IBM L2 support), ensure procedures for opening tickets are documented.
Define a support schedule
Peak days start early and finish late. Create a shift schedule for 24x7 or peak-hour support coverage. Focals for all key areas should be included in the schedule.
Setup a communications plan
Communication needs to remain fluent. How are all the parties kept up to date? Will there be regular status emails? Who is responsible for them? Who are the recipients? What frequency and content is required ?
It's said that 90% of the project manager's time is spent communicating. This is no exception.
There will also be need for regular bridge calls and coordinating updates across shifts.
- Document escalation criteria and procedures
Given the urgency with which most issues need to be resolved, the team is likely to need to escalate. For example, issues that would typically wait until morning to be looked into, during peak might need to be addressed overnight.
Educate your team supporting the site on the criteria and procedures for escalations. Also document the escalation procedures for when assistance from an external team is required (e.g. IBM support).
Production issues are rarely simple. There is often multiple people, and multiple teams involved (internal or external). Involving the project manager and technical leads early will help save time.
Ensure activities by the business, performance and operation teams are in sync
At the beginning of planning for peak, business teams share with the operation and performance teams details on the expected peaks, marketing and promotion plans.
This information is used by the performance team to setup targets and determine the load testing scenarios. The operations team is also involved in case the scheduling of certain activities needs to be adjusted (e.g. promotion starts at the same time as the database backup, so the backup should be delayed).
Although these communications are expected to continue happening throughout the project, that's not always the case.
Setup checkpoints with representatives from all teams to ensure there is full awareness and agreement on the activities. During peak days, this can be covered by the communications plan.
Ensure the Runbook is up to date
The runbook documents all the activities required for the daily operation of the site. In addition to the points above, tech leads should validate the points of monitoring, alerts and diagnostic data collection, all of which are critical for peak. This blog post has more details: Where is your WebSphere Commerce black box?
The list above is not all-inclusive by any means, but I hope you find some of the tips helpful. You can also check out this post for more good tips: Preparing WebSphere Commerce for the peak shopping periods