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Imagine that in a small company, a team of three tests and adopts new software, services or products from scratch before they are used by the actual end user functional team within the company.

One of them is testing Software X but while he is on holiday, there is a sudden major client request that would require using Software X to a level that only the employee on holiday could answer without delving too deep.

In a situation where there are no defined work processes yet (since the new technology is only barely adopted), how to handle when the person doing the research/pilot testing is on holiday?

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    I'd wait until that person gets back from holiday - this is assuming that the person is on a one-week holiday at most. If the person is on a European-style one-month or two-month holiday, I assume that plans are already in place to cover for that person and ontinue the projects while that person is out. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 18 '14 at 10:45
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    Your truck factor is way too low. – Dan Pichelman Apr 19 '14 at 14:03
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You can always tell the client they'll have to wait. Seriously.

Rush jobs tend to lead to sloppiness and mistakes. And, perhaps even worse, they lead to the assumption that you'll always deliver with that sort of turnaround. And when you don't after doing so dozens of times before, the client gets angry. Which was what you thought you were avoiding by having fast turnarounds. Basically, you are not doing either yourself or the client any favors by being over-responsive.

So, learn to manage your client's expectations. Get them out of the habit of expecting instant turnarounds. Never promise anything in under two weeks, for example (not including true emergencies like outages). Then, when you tell them that so-and-so is on vacation and won't be back for a week, it won't be a shock to them. And even if it is necessary to contact the individual on vacation, you're giving them some appropriate time to respond to any questions, not frantically trying to reach them while they are out on a jet ski.

This gets everyone on the same page. You aren't ruining people's vacations and hurting morale (perhaps leading to that important person leaving the team for a better opportunity). And you are reducing stress across the board.

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If one person being incommunicado requires that another "delve too deep", then you need to invest in having the people on the team train each other on how their section of the project works.

If you haven't yet done that, whoever's their backup needs to go ahead and delve as deep as necessary.

Or you need to be willing to tell the customer that the best person to handle their request is out but will be back next Thursday and can they possibly wait. In many cases, the difference between now and Thursday really doesn't matter to the customer. A SEV3 bug is not a SEV1 HOT crisis.

Or, if it's really business-critical, you need to talk with the employees about whether they'd be willing to give you cell phone numbers so they can consult -- and possibly carry company laptops with them so they can work remotely -- when they're on vacation. This requires that you convince them that you will contact them ONLY if they say in advance that you can do so or if you absolutely must, and that you will make it up to them somehow (issue them additional holidays to make up for the time you're stealing back, bonus, raise to reflect their dedication to the company above and beyond the call of duty...)

BUT.... In this case the employee is only testing Software X? That means X is not yet officially part of your toolkit. That in turn suggests you were getting by before s/he started evaluating it. And that, in turn, suggests that while it might be nice to have, it probably isn't something you should call them back to drive unless it's truly necessary -- both time-critical and not solvable any other way.

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