Life at Fastly: a business continuity plan led by people, process, and technology

Maintaining operational systems during data losses, security breaches, power outages — these are the scenarios most business continuity plans account for. But what about a global pandemic that could affect your people more than your systems? Enter March 2020.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew we had to ease concerns among our employees and our customers with support and communications. But when it came to our existing business continuity plan (or BCP), we realized a significant and increasingly likely risk wasn’t a systems failure, it was more about possible failures over a long period of time due to people being unavailable for all sorts of changing reasons.

Led by our values of curiosity and our drive to innovate, we formed a planning team with intentionally varied BCP experience to encourage the new ideas that would come from minds that think outside of traditional continuity planning. We wanted them to focus specifically on reinforcing our people and the processes they perform to ensure our ability to support our customers and our people.

This is a unique approach to business continuity: although we could’ve stopped at the norm with reinforcing just our systems, we saw that the world was turning to the internet for guidance, support, and relief, and our people are at the forefront of making Fastly the backbone of many of these efforts. 

This approach set us up to minimize risk in the short term but also to expose the vulnerable spots we need to reinforce in the long term. We’re even starting to plan now to link some of these critical processes into roles and documented job responsibilities. We expect this approach to impact our business for years to come.

Here’s a look at how we did it, should your company need the same.

Our process

We started with the mission to be better prepared, get ahead of potential issues, and feel confident in our resilience. To do this, we needed a full view of critical processes, the systems they involve, and the Fastlyans who are responsible for executing them.

Each team leader captured the business critical processes that kept Fastly running, how often they happen, the people who execute them regularly, and the people who could execute them if needed. Our logic was that the more people who could perform a job, and the less often it needs to happen, the lower the risk. 

This gave us a full picture of the people, processes, and technology that we needed to shore up with backup plans and more training. But it was also about a thousand lines once we pulled it all together in a spreadsheet and only gave us a moment-in-time perspective. We needed a more streamlined, dynamic view that would allow us to understand at a glance where our biggest risks were. 

Our technology

By using Google Data Studio, we were able to create a color-coded dashboard that gives us a live view of our status. We created a tree map that details blocks of work color-coded for risk and added filters to boil down to the details of the processes and people who can deploy them. 

Data-driven executive reviews

Now, we’re using this dashboard to reinforce people and processes flagged as critical or at risk. It has been very powerful to be able to take information that is classically seen as qualitative in nature and turn that into quantitative, actionable data. We are doing this through regular reviews with executives, and this has provided them with valuable insights that they cannot pick up from intuition alone. It’s something we’ll use going into the future to mature our business and dedicate resources where they’re needed. 

Make it yours

We’re proud that this approach has earned the appreciation and confidence of employees, customers, and vendors. If you’re in the same spot as us — looking to grow your business with a modern approach to business continuity planning — we’ve made a template of our model publicly available. 

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