Engineering Enablement by Abi Noda

In this deep-dive episode, Brian Scanlan, Principal Systems Engineer at Intercom, describes how the company’s on-call process works. He explains how the process started and key changes they’ve made over the years, including a new volunteer model, changes to compensation, and more.

Discussion points:
  • (1:28) How on-call started at Intercom
  • (10:11) Brian’s background and interest in being on-call
  • (14:06) Getting engineers motivated to be on-call 
  • (16:37) Challenges Intercom saw with on-call as it grew
  • (19:53) Having too many people on-call
  • (23:20) Having alarms that aren’t useful 
  • (26:03) Recognizing uneven workload with compensation
  • (27:22) Initiating changes to the on-call process 
  • (30:08) Creating a volunteer model
  • (33:02) Addressing concerns that volunteers wouldn’t take action on alarms 
  • (34:40) Equitability in a volunteer model
  • (36:36) Expectations of expertise for being on-call
  • (40:56) How volunteers sign up 
  • (44:15) The Incident Commander role 
  • (46:19) Using code review for changes to alarms
  • (50:02) On-call compensation 
  • (52:50) Other approaches to compensating on-call
  • (55:08) Whether other companies should compensate on-call
  • (57:32) How Intercom’s on-call process compares to other companies 
  • (1:00:46) Recent changes to the on-call process
  • (1:04:13) Balancing responsiveness and burnout 
  • (1:07:12) Signals for evaluating the on-call process 
Mentions and links: 

Creators & Guests

Abi Noda
Abi is the founder and CEO of DX (, which helps engineering leaders measure and improve developer experience. Abi formerly founded Pull Panda, which was acquired by GitHub.

What is Engineering Enablement by Abi Noda?

This is a weekly podcast focused on developer productivity and the teams and leaders dedicated to improving it. Topics include in-depth interviews with Platform and DevEx teams, as well as the latest research and approaches on measuring developer productivity. The EE podcast is hosted by Abi Noda, the founder and CEO of DX ( and published researcher focused on developing measurement methods to help organizations improve developer experience and productivity.