Stopping the Bus With Automation

Nearly everyone has heard the analogy at some point in their career about a team’s “Bus Factor.” What is the risk to your team or your organization of an individual person leaving or being unable to contribute suddenly? There are individuals in nearly every organization that could cause productivity or team function to come to a complete standstill if they were to “get hit by a bus.”

More explicitly, the Bus Factor is the minimum number of people who would have to leave to cause permanent loss of information or capabilities that have not been shared across another team. There are several solutions to increase your organization’s Bus Factor.

First, for projects or processes with a Bus Factor of 1, a worst-case scenario, you would want to immediately implement a sharing process like pair programming or shadowing. Pair programming is an Agile coding methodology where two programmers work together at a single workstation. One drives and writes code while the other reviews each line of code as it is written. Both roles switch frequently as the project progresses. Shared task processes help you both end up with higher quality results and often times more creative solutions to problems, but greatly increased shared understanding and shared knowledge of the project. Embracing group project approaches can quickly spread knowledge and best practices and help protect the team against a potential loss of knowledge from an unexpected event. This is a great way to get the ball rolling and move your Bus Factor up.

Next up, training sessions! Nothing else helps more to both quickly document, and quickly teach others, about a project or process. Creation of knowledge transfer sessions alone can quickly document processes and give you a solid footing and prevent unexpected loss of know-how. Training sessions also help to build team camaraderie and quickly improves your Bus Factor score by spreading a single documented piece of knowledge to a room full of people.

These solutions to the Bus Factor problem can help in the short term and to quickly bring your factor above 1, but there is a simple solution to permanently increase your Bus Factor and remove the threat of knowledge loss almost entirely: Automation.

Automation is the single most valuable tool you have in your arsenal to stave off the errant bus attack. The first step in automating processes is the documentation of that process via notation, diagrams, etc. The documentation itself becomes part of the knowledge transfer process and is a required step towards reengineering or improvement initiatives. Automating key processes, even if they are uncommonly or sparingly used, can reduce the burden of knowledge from a full understanding and implementation of a process from start to finish to simply knowing when and how to start the automation process. Automation can take simple tasks and save you both time and money by removing any repetitive manual portions and addressing them programmatically. Automation can also tackle complex, nuanced tasks and provide a simple, one-click solution to the Bus Factor problem. This can give you much-needed time back to refine and improve your processes and begin tackling more complex or more urgent needs for the business.

Automox can help you automate your way out of the way of the bus! With Automox Worklets, you can automate nearly anything your IT operations might need, from installing and updating third-party software to maintaining configurations across your infrastructure and even shortening the time needed to onboard a new device into your infrastructure.

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