What happens if your IT Manager wins the lottery? AKA The Bus Factor

What happens if your IT Manager wins the lottery? AKA The Bus Factor

This is a running joke in IT, but think about it… Do you have only ONE person in your organization that knows your systems, runs your network, manages your database, or programs your applications?

What happens if they quit, get hired away, retire, win the lottery or unexpectedly die?

One thing we hear over and over again is “It feels like technology team members are holding my company hostage”.  IT can hold you hostage via knowledge, relationships, succession or uncontrollable events. Read on to see if any of these apply to your business.  

If your IT person knows significantly more about a system that runs your business than you do, then your company is at risk.


  • Password management 
  • Core business systems
  • Device configurations for your network
  • Security protocols
  • Disaster recovery systems
  • Active directory management

Sometimes the person holding you hostage is toxic to the culture of your company but they are “too important” to remove. Being held hostage can often be very subtle. Here are some ways in which you can identify if it is happening to you. 

  • You never get a straight answer. Information you request is never fully available, requires additional analysis, and can only be untangled by your employee.
  • You are told, “No one else can…” Your employee or coworker is the only person in your work group who has the knowledge, technical capability, experience, or access that is needed to complete the assignment. If they can’t do the work, you are stuck!
  • Your employee has the clout. An employee, not you, has the political pull with department heads, regulators, community/political leaders, and key customers. (This often happens to new managers who take over established departments of veteran employees.)
  • You can be easily undercut. When your employee is perceived as knowing more about process mechanics, coworker issues, and customer concerns, they can marginalize your credibility.
  • You are out of the loop. When your employee gets sensitive and/or important information before you do, they are in a position to take action in a way that enhances their stature and diminishes yours.
  • Employee loyalties shift. When employees have more confidence in the insights, direction, and knowledge of a coworker than you, that employee becomes a default leader, capable of supporting or undermining you.

So what do you do about it?


  • Distribute knowledge for critical systems, configurations, and code
  • Document knowledge so that future team members have a map to follow
  • Implement paired team members for key personnel so that backups are built in
  • Limit siloed knowledge workers from contributing, put in a guidance role instead


  • Ensure more than one person is involved in critical relationships for your company.
  • Increase transparency in your company to decrease water cooler talk.
  • Cross train all roles to decrease relationship silos
  • Talk to everyone!


  • Build in “teams” for critical processes
  • Identify “backups” for important tasks
  • Make documentation a priority and maintain it

“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing.” ..don’t be scared to change!