Be proactive in understanding how a
team memberís absence could affect your publishing operations.
By Wes Trochlil
I was sitting with a group
of association executives discussing their current data management situation.
In the course of the discussion, the executive director pointed out that for
almost all of their data management systems, there is only one person on staff
that knows how to use these systems. When she is out of the office, everything
data-related comes to a standstill until she returns. As the executive director
put it, "If she gets hit by a beer truck, we're in big trouble."
I often refer to this as
the "hit by a bus" problem. That is, if a given staff person gets hit
by a bus and can't come to work (or decides to go to Tahiti, if you prefer a
more pleasant image), can other staff pick up and do that person's job, or will
that work have to be relearned and/or restarted? This is the person's bus
factor: How much their absence would adversely affect the operations of the
organizationóthe greater the risk of their missing, the higher their bus
Look at your publishing
team. Consider each staff person who touches your content. What is the bus
factor for each? Do you have too much knowledge invested in a single person, or
is the knowledge spread broadly among several staff? Do you have good
documentation in place to support staff?
How to Lower the Bus Factor
Once you've determined the bus factor for your staff, what
can you do to lower the risk of those with a high bus factor? Here are some
with higher bus factors should document all of the processes they
currently manage. These documents should include step-by-step procedures
for how content is processed.
identifying all the processes that this staff person manages, redistribute
responsibility for some of those tasks to other staff within the
organization. (Obviously this is limited to the number of staff you have;
if you have very limited staff, documentation becomes absolutely
sure you have a solid relationship with your technology and service vendors.
Your vendor can serve as your backstop if key staff members with a high
bus factor suddenly leave.
You have control over how
high a given staff person's bus factor becomes. Good documentation, good
relationships with your vendors, and spreading the work out among multiple
staff are all ways to keep the bus factor low, and to ensure that an errant bus
doesn't create a crisis at your organization.
Wes Trochlil is an author
and the founder of Effective Database Management (EDM). He has worked for four
national and international trade associations.