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 organization. The greater the risk of their missing, the higher their bus factor.
When it comes to data management, this is particularly important. Look around your organization. Consider each staff person who touches the data. 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 suggestions:
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.
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