By Corey Grant
27 August 2015
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously I discussed how to turn your ideas into a .brand TLD strategy, which you can read here.
While your strategy and objectives speak more broadly to why you’re launching a .brand TLD, your implementation plan covers the all-important ‘how’.
Once you complete your strategy workshop session to agree upon objectives and approach, how do you actually launch a .brand TLD?
You need an implementation plan to guide you from strategy to launch, and beyond. At its core, the implementation plan is a checklist; just like a pilot landing a plane, you need to run through your checklist to ensure you don’t miss any crucial elements. It only takes overlooking one small step to lead to disaster.
While developing your implementation plan is far from the most exciting step in launching a .brand TLD, the project planning work done here will lay the necessary foundation for the creative promotion and engagement activities to come. It will also provide confidence to internal stakeholders that their needs have been considered.
What is an implementation plan?
An implementation plan considers the broad range of internal departments and external participants involved in the launch and operation of a .brand TLD.
One way to think about the implementation plan is to treat it as a risk prevention and mitigation tool. Because of this, several factors contribute to its complexity.
One is the very nature of the complex ICANN ecosystem and intricacies of the domain name industry. Another is the involvement of such wide-ranging areas of the organisation, making it easy to overlook items from areas outside the control of the project owner, if the items are not identified and listed in the implementation plan.
The internal project owner should take the implementation plan and develop it into a fully detailed project plan with timelines and assignments that fit in with all participating resources.
How do you create an implementation plan?
Building upon Neustar’s experience in launching major .brand TLDs around the world, we have built a proprietary implementation plan to help .brand TLD owners navigate the launch process. Outputs typically include a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) and a Gantt chart.
The intention of the implementation plan is to ensure every deliverable of the strategy is accounted for. This means getting into the minutia of tasks required of internal and external stakeholders.
For example, here are four common topics the Neustar TLD consulting team has covered in the past with clients in our implementation plan:
1. Reserved names – Creating a list of reserved names which need specific sign-off to register. Reserving these names reduces the likelihood of the names being accidentally released to an ineligible internal applicant.
2. Call centre readiness – Ensure the public-facing call centre is trained on upcoming domain name launches. It is no use promoting the .brand TLD only to have a call centre operator direct a caller to a legacy TLD website.
3. Test third-party software – E.g. payment gateways. There may be certain systems which currently rely on connecting to a legacy domain. A plan with IT needs to be developed.
4. PR strategy for analysts – For publicly-listed companies, analysts are likely to pick up on any news surrounding the launch. Be sure there is an educational document so analysts can understand what the company is trying to achieve with the initial use of the .brand TLD.
The implementation plan is an excellent tool to support the broad cross-functional nature of launching a .brand TLD. Your implementation plan lowers your risk and keeps you on track.
What we’ve learnt is that after developing a strategic plan and looking towards the launch of your .brand TLD, the implementation plan brings structure and confidence to the project. For the project owner, it also helps disperse the not-insignificant load of delivering on the strategy.
If you combine a great strategy with a seamless implementation plan, the launch of your .brand TLD will provide your organisation with an asset which will become the foundation of your future digital brand.
Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015.