Think the bus factor only affects software development projects? Think again. The bus factor is an issue for any business-critical project and should be avoided wherever possible. But before we explore why and how; what exactly is the bus factor?
What is the “bus factor”
Simply put, the bus factor is the number of people who would have to be run over by a bus for a project to be jeopardised. The lower the number, the larger the risk. Essentially, if only one team member in a project has most of the knowledge, information, and skills to complete it, then the project would be highly at risk if they were to leave, go on holiday, or indeed be hit by a bus!
Sounds pretty grim, but it’s a powerful metaphor that forces you to consider if you have put all of your knowledge eggs into one basket. A higher bus factor means that lots of people in the project team are suitably qualified to take over a colleague’s workload should they no longer be around (for whatever reason), meaning the project is less likely to collapse without them.
Why a low bus factor should be avoided
Think about the most important projects within your company; is there one key person who, if they left, the whole project would fall apart? If this kind of thing is keeping you awake at night, it’s time to start increasing the bus factor.
If the status quo is kept, and a key team member leaves the company, consider how much of an impact this would cause. An existing member of staff (most likely whoever is free at the time) would need to be rapidly brought up to speed.
Or time and money would need to be spent on short-notice recruitment; or a project would need to be put on hold entirely until the required knowledge and skills are available. This is not an ideal situation to be in, especially when handling chargeable client projects.
How you can handle the bus factor
Handling the bus factor is a matter of effective knowledge management and transfer. If you have a low bus factor, encourage those key members to share their knowledge throughout the team. And by using your employee intranet, sharing this knowledge is incredibly easy
Knowledge base articles
Team members can create their own intranet articles about each of their key areas of knowledge, making the information available to all at the click of a mouse. This allows for easy transfer of knowledge, which will remain on the intranet indefinitely for team members to access, review, and absorb. Staff can also post questions on the article, encouraging genuine conversation and knowledge expansion about business critical information.
Stand up online
Daily stand-ups, or quick and regular meetings, are a great way of communicating effectively and succinctly. Even Richard Branson says so! Frequent communication of project status and required resources ensures that the team stays up-to-date and informed, as opposed to having infrequent and long-winded meetings on an ad-hoc basis.
Corporate social networking on the intranet can emulate this digitally, where team members can post their contributions to the appropriate communication channels, thus increasing awareness and promoting transparency.
Blog, blog, blog!
Encourage the carriers of knowledge to regularly blog about their experiences on the company intranet. This is a great way of transferring knowledge in story form that’s engaging, inspiring, and informative.
Blogging can be a much less intimidating way for employees to learn new skills, as the information is presented like a train of thought rather than a structured lesson plan, catering to all styles of learning.
Do you have a bus factor to handle? Try our free intranet demo to discover how it can help!