SRE: 6 Tips for Success

Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) build and roll out software to improve reliability across enterprise systems, resulting in greater performance and efficiency. But what are the top six SRE roles and responsibilities? Read on to find out.

SRE, or Site Reliability Engineering, bridges the gap between traditional IT and software development. SRE can be considered an extension of modern DevOps (Developer Operations) and have a widespread impact across your organisation.

Whether your business is new to DevOps or has been practising DevOps best practices for years, an SRE team can help to enhance your processes and technology, while increasing speed and reliability.

Read on to discover the top six SRE roles and responsibilities you need to know, as well as key factors to consider when adopting an SRE function in your organisation.

1. Resolving support issues—fast

Incidents in production inevitably lead to support escalation issues. Site reliability engineers not only help to resolve these but, over time, work to reduce major support incidents from occurring in the first place by making overall systems more reliable.

Since the nature of SRE is so broad and requires communication across multiple teams (such as DevOps, IT and support), site reliability engineers quickly become extremely knowledgeable across these functions. As a result, they are well placed to help direct support queries to the appropriate department and resolve issues fast, further enhancing efficiency.

If your support function could do with streamlining, then investing in an SRE team—if you haven’t already—is a worthwhile business activity that can pay dividends in future.

2. Process optimisation to support on-call staff

Being on-call is a key aspect of being a site reliability engineer. As such, many SREs take it upon themselves to find new ways to optimise on-call processes and further enhance system reliability.

Optimising on-call processes can be done in numerous ways, including:

  • Introducing automation to reduce manual, admin-heavy tasks.
  • Contextualising alerts to provide real-time insights to responders and improve business outcomes.

As part of a site reliability engineer’s work, they may also dedicate time to updating documentation and tools based on previous experiences to better prepare on-call responders when future incidents occur.

Related Read: Why You Need a Dedicated Platform Engineering Team

3. Building software to support cross-departmental teams

One of the key roles of a site reliability engineer is to create helpful software to enable IT, DevOps and support teams to do their jobs more effectively.

From fine-tuning monitoring and alerting tools, to optimising code in production and everything in between, a site reliability engineer’s responsibilities are far-reaching.

Most crucially, a site reliability engineer’s objectives are always centred around enhancing software delivery and mitigating or managing incidents.

Whether you work in DevOps, IT or support, it’s likely you’ve either benefitted in the past, or would benefit, from a dedicated site reliability engineer.

Related Read: Secure DevOps: The What, the Why and the How

4. Reviewing past incidents and suggesting improvements

Instead of simply dealing with an incident and moving on to the next, the best SREs will document and communicate what went wrong, how it was resolved, and how to prevent a similar event from happening in the future.

Being as transparent as possible during a post-incident review is crucial to equipping development and IT teams with the tools to take action and improve on past performance.

Building in additional processes, or optimising existing ones, into the development life cycle can help to improve reliability and reduce the frequency of similar incidents occurring.

5. Knowledge sharing (including documentation)

As an SRE’s work covers such a broad scope, they’re likely to develop a vast library of knowledge across development, IT and support.

Making it their mission to share this knowledge across teams and departments, both verbally and through detailed documentation, is vital to upskill teams and prevent departments from working in silos.

Documenting key processes and federating knowledge across the business will not only help to improve cross-team collaboration, but improve overall business efficiency.

6. Balancing reliability and innovation

Finally, we come on to the most important job of all for a site reliability engineer: striking the perfect balance between reliability and innovation. To achieve this, an SRE must identify ways to effectively embrace and manage risk to ensure new features and products can be rolled out quickly and efficiently, while maintaining quality and reliability.

Google is a great example of SREs identifying ways to manage the risk of systems dropping. It has redundant systems that are always in use. This means that if one breaks down, this loss can be instantly covered by one of the remaining systems.

At NearForm, we have over a decade of experience building enterprise-grade digital solutions and instilling DevOps best practices, including established SRE principles, to improve velocity, reliability and performance.

If you’re looking to streamline collaboration between your development, IT and operations teams and create a strong developer experience, we can help. As engineering practitioners, we specialise in removing friction between developer and operations teams to streamline processes, meet your Service Level Objectives (SLOs), and improve business outcomes.

Want to discover how to accelerate software delivery and reduce the time to market for new products and services? Download our free checklist, ‘5 Key Principles to Scale Your DevOps Practice’ today to receive actionable tips.

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