Bus Factor

How Not To Get Hit By It

By Scott Spratlen, Senior Vice President of Technology

When you hear the term “bus factor,” I imagine a few different images come to mind. Maybe it’s the impending headlights of a bus heading straight for you or a fleet of busses trekking across the country.  In and of itself, the term bus factor doesn’t sound like a negative term. On the contrary, it almost sounds powerful, unless you have already been exposed to it, or have experienced it firsthand.

The term bus factor represents the risk an organization or team takes when only one or a few individuals have key knowledge or skills which are not possessed by others on the team or organization.

To evaluate the bus factor in an organization or team, ask the question, what would happen if this person was no longer available or “hit by a bus” (hence the term)? Would the team be able to survive and at what cost? If the answer to that question results in not being able to operate without that individual, then the bus factor is very high and immediate attention is needed.

In smaller organizations, bus factor is common and almost unavoidable. As growth occurs and teams expand, it is also common for the bus factor to rise. This is because new employees, hired during a reactionary growth period, hit the ground running and pick up new tasks or simple tasks and begin to create their own bus factor while solidifying the bus factor of those already on the team.

Mitigating bus factor is an intentional process and sometimes a difficult one. Many of those holding onto knowledge and skills will feel vulnerable, and even expendable, when approached about passing items off. They will often react defensively and resist the change. As a company grows it is imperative to reduce and even remove bus factor in order to make continued and even exponential growth scalable.

The team I work with was wrought with bus factor, and it was only getting worse. We needed to do something quickly before it devastated our productivity. Our team of developers is a distributed team (not collocated), and essentially made up of two teams, one in each location, making this challenge even more daunting. So we did what seemed counter-intuitive, but necessary, we setup team leads and assigned them team members that are not collocated to them. Each team lead was given specific challenges to rotate the work items and a pair program was developed to share knowledge.

What came of this process was nothing short of miraculous. Efficiencies are skyrocketing, and team morale is continuing to rise. Why?  Because team members get to work on different projects all the time. They are no longer pigeon-holed for the bus factor project only they were stuck on, even if they were the ones intentionally holding on. Queues are shifting and workloads are much more balanced.

Benefits of Removing Bus Factor

– Knowledge and skills that are scalable

– Better leadership that communicates and shares

– Better collaboration and trust among the team

– Employees who provide value instead fearing being expendable

Side Effects of Bus Factor

– Siloed knowledge and skills

– Lack of sharing and trust among team

– Poor collaboration

– Selfish mentality

– Log jams in queue waiting for one person to work on them

It is essential to reduce and even remove bus factor, whenever identified, in order to reduce risk and improve efficiency. It is a difficult challenge to overcome if you are facing it, but one well worth the fight!


7324 GFS-4/24/2017



Personalize Orion Social and Get Ready for Our May Software Update

Set your profile and top apps to personalize Orion Social, and then head over to the Orion blog to see details on our May software update.

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May 2017 Software Release Highlights

Orion May 2017 Release Notes

The Orion May 2017 software release is coming your way soon and in today’s post we have all the major highlights.

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The Power of Networking – Use LinkedIn!

Content provided by Rusty Vanneman, CFA, CMT, CLS Chief Investment Officer

I had lunch with Reid Hoffman once. It was fascinating. Reid is known for lots of things, including being the co-founder of LinkedIn, which is arguably the most important social media tool, especially for investment professionals.

My opportunity to have lunch with Reid came when I served on the Board of Overseers for Babson College (my alma mater) in Wellesley, Massachusetts. For a grand graduation ceremony one May several years ago, I was fortunate enough to put on the formal robes and walk into the beautiful outdoor tent along with faculty and prominent alumni for the graduation procession and presentations. In short, it was a really cool experience.

Reid was the featured graduation speaker that day. I was truly impressed by his intellectual curiosity and comments both on the stage and during our lunch. Many of his thoughts are captured in his book, “The Start-Up of You,” which is, refreshingly, an easy and engaging read.

One key point that Reid stresses is we are living in a networked age. In fact, his latest book, “The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age,” is considered another must-read by many. Here is an excerpt from its description on Amazon that captures the essence of the book:

The employer-employee relationship is broken, and managers face a seemingly impossible dilemma: the old model of guaranteed long-term employment no longer works in a business environment defined by continuous change, but neither does a system in which every employee acts like a free agent.

The solution? Stop thinking of employees as either family or as free agents. Think of them instead as allies.

As a manager you want your employees to help transform the company for the future. And your employees want the company to help transform their careers for the long term. But this win-win scenario will happen only if both sides trust each other enough to commit to mutual investment and mutual benefit. Sadly, trust in the business world is hovering at an all-time low.

We can rebuild that lost trust with straight talk that recognizes the realities of the modern economy. So, paradoxically, the alliance begins with managers acknowledging that great employees might leave the company, and with employees being honest about their own career aspirations.

By putting this new alliance at the heart of your talent management strategy, you’ll not only bring back trust, you’ll be able to recruit and retain the entrepreneurial individuals you need to adapt to a fast-changing world.

These individuals, flexible, creative, and with a bias toward action, thrive when they’re on a specific “tour of duty”—when they have a mission that’s mutually beneficial to employee and company that can be completed in a realistic period of time.

The book’s primary audience is management. While I would argue it’s still a read for anybody who works, “The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career” relates to the individual. Here’s a snippet from its description on Amazon:

LinkedIn co-founder and Chairman Reid Hoffman and author Ben Casnocha show how to accelerate your career in today’s competitive world. The key is to manage your career as if it were a start-up business: a living, breathing, growing start-up of you.

Why? Start-ups – and the entrepreneurs who run them – are nimble. They invest in themselves. They build their professional networks. They take intelligent risks. They make uncertainty and volatility work to their advantage. 

These are the very same skills professionals need to get ahead today. 

This book isn’t about cover letters or resumes. Instead, you will learn the best practices of Silicon Valley start-ups, and how to apply these entrepreneurial strategies to your career. Whether you work for a giant multinational corporation, a small local business, or launching your own venture, you need to know how to:

* Adapt your career plans as you change, the people around you change, and industries change.
* Develop a competitive advantage to win the best jobs and opportunities.
Strengthen your professional network by building powerful alliances and maintaining a diverse mix of relationships. 

Find the unique breakout opportunities that massively accelerate career growth.
* Take proactive risks to become more resilient to industry tsunamis.
Tap your network for information and intelligence that help you make smarter decisions.

Of course, the book strongly promotes the use of LinkedIn. But it’s good advice, even if the author is a little biased. Embracing this social media platform and improving your profile is a must in today’s economy. Doing so is a win-win for you and the company you work for. It provides an online curriculum vitae and a tool to showcase your brand and skills, while also allowing your company to show off its talent to current and prospective clients. Building your network is not only a publicity campaign for yourself, it’s a promotional tool for your company.

How do you improve your LinkedIn profile? There are so many helpful sites available with a quick Google search, but here’s one I like:

So, get after it! When you meet new business associates, or ones you want to meet, reach out to them via LinkedIn as soon as you can. Keep your profile clean, up-to-date, and growing. In this networked age, you need to do this — not only to get ahead, but to prevent yourself from falling behind.

Thanks for reading. Stay balanced.



Get Better Support with Orion Social Group Pages

Orion Social is available to help make service and support a better process, and now you can take advantage of Orion Social Group pages to connect faster.

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Finding a Better Life

Content provided by Robyn Murray, freelance writer

Jeovany “Joe” Zelaya grew up in a tiny town on the eastern edge of El Salvador. El Divisadero is a municipality of about 8,000 people surrounded by rugged mountains and dotted with colorful stucco buildings. Zelaya lived there with his grandparents and older brother, while his mother saved for his future by working three jobs 1,800 miles away in Houston, Texas.

”I owe everything to my mom,” Zelaya said. “Because of her hard work and perseverance, I have the opportunity to strive for a better life here in the United States.”

Joe with his abuela & madre (grandmother & mother).

Zelaya moved back to the U.S. when he was in second grade. The family’s separation had been tough on all of them. Zelaya says the experience made him want to take care of his family and be someone his mother could rely on. In 2008, when he watched her hard-earned savings get hit by the financial crisis, he decided he needed to understand how the markets worked. He wanted to become an expert — to help his mother and to help others too. Today, Zelaya is on his way to becoming one.


Zelaya was born in Houston, but his mother sent him and his brother back to El Salvador when he was just a few months old so she could work and save, hoping to establish a better life for her children. While he missed his mother, life in El Divisadero was simple and fun. Zelaya recalls waking up to the sound of roosters crowing in the morning and watching his grandmother walk down to the river to get water for the day. He had everything he needed, he said: food on the table and a roof over his head.

By the time Zelaya was entering second grade, his mother was able to send for her children and bring them back to Houston. Zelaya didn’t speak English, but he took ESL classes at school and watched hours of Sesame Street and Disney movies to catch up. He transitioned well (he had his big brother to look out for him, he said), he took up football, and excelled in school.

But it was only when he found a mentor in his school’s associate principal, Keri Fovargue, that he began thinking seriously about his future. “Keri believed in me,” Zelaya said. “She gave her time and money to helping others. She was the type of person I wanted to become.” Zelaya had never been encouraged to aspire to college. His grandmother was forced to quit school in sixth grade after her father told her furthering her education was unnecessary, and his mother got As and Bs in high school, but the civil war that broke out in El Salvador in the 1980s prevented her from going any further. Fovargue helped Zelaya apply for scholarships, and he ultimately enrolled at the University of Houston becoming the first in his family to attend college.

Zelaya played football at UH and studied marketing and finance. He had developed a curiosity in the markets after the financial crisis devastated millions of retirement accounts. “My mother had been giving to her 401(k) plan for years,” he said. “But she didn’t understand how it worked.” Zelaya wanted to help his mother understand, and he wanted to become an expert in the field so he could help others too.

After he graduated, Zelaya moved with his long-time girlfriend (who is now his wife) to Omaha, Nebraska. He had been working at Gallup since high school, so he transferred with the company and enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to pursue his MBA. In September 2016, Zelaya joined CLS Investments as an internal wholesaler. It’s a position he enjoys primarily because he gets to see the people impacted by the portfolio management team’s investment decisions. He loves to answer their questions, as much as he can, and he is now working on his CFA designation to become more knowledgeable about the financial markets. “I want to be the type of person that people can trust to offer guidance,” he said. “I’m pursuing my CFA designation so I can have the credentials to back that up.”

Zelaya said he’s learning something new every day in the industry and appreciates all the guidance his team and the portfolio managers provide. His ultimate goal is to be in a leadership position where he can expand his reach to help many people reach their financial goals.

Joe with his Abuela (grandmother) in El Salvador.

Today, Zelaya’s mother has seen her retirement account recover since the Great Recession. She has learned from Zelaya that markets move up and down and to stay invested for the long haul. Zelaya returns to El Divisadero every year or two to see his grandparents and the rest of his extended family. Life still moves slowly down there and not much has changed. But for Zelaya, his world has expanded, and he’s well on his way to securing his future as a financial expert.



Understanding Account Values and Time-Weighted Return Performance

Common Performance Questions

Understanding how account values relate to time-weighted return performance can be a complex task, but SME Joe Porter simplifies the equation in today’s post.

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2017: The Beginning of a Dollar Bear Market?

Content provided by Case Eichenberger, CIMA, Client Portfolio Manager

Investors living in the U.S. have a lot of things going for them. The U.S. is a dominant global superpower. Its financial system and economy is the world’s largest, and it has a strong entrepreneurial spirit that moves the world forward with new products and technology. Investors in the U.S. also utilize the U.S. dollar as their main source of trade, spending, and saving. It impacts exchange rates when they travel and invest. The higher the dollar against other currencies, the more attractive it is to own.

Over time, the impact of currency exchange rates on portfolios can seem almost invisible. But, U.S. investors who invest overseas (made easier now with ETFs) are buying the global market and its currencies — and the U.S. dollar plays a significant role in the returns of those investments. Over the past eight years, the dollar has surged higher against a basket of other currencies across the globe — against developed markets (euro, yen, pound) and emerging markets (peso, South Korean won, yuan) the dollar increased by more than 30%.

By several measures, the dollar appears expensive. At CLS, our preferred method of weighing currencies is through purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP looks at how much a basket of goods (or a Big Mac) costs in different countries. If the Big Mac (in this example) costs less in one country, we view that currency as undervalued and expect it to move higher over time. Right now, PPP rates the dollar as expensive, and only five countries have more expensive Big Macs than the U.S.

So when the dollar is expensive (or cheap)
, what happens? As the table below shows, when the dollar runs up, international stocks typically perform worse than U.S. stocks and vice versa due to currency impacts. So if the dollar is overvalued, it is likely to move lower. So, where would you want to be invested when that happens? A tilt towards international stocks makes sense, and they are much cheaper to buy right now.

So far in 2017, the dollar is down more than 2% against other currencies. ETFs that track the dollar also show it is down. So, it’s not too surprising international stocks have outpaced U.S. stocks by about 3.5% this year.

Where do we go from here? Can the dollar go lower? Sure it can. Will it? No one knows for sure, but we would place a higher chance of it moving lower than higher. Our internal technical analysis (presented in the graph below) shows the dollar may be trending downward as the three-month moving average breaks through the one-year moving average.



All The Orion Social Details You Need

Today's Orion Weekly gives you all the additional Orion Social details you want to know about our new support and service app.

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