A change, and some reflections…

27 April 2010

Doug Brent

Dear ICANN Community,

At the end of July, I will be leaving my post as ICANN’s Chief Operating Officer.

While my engagement in the work of ICANN has made this a difficult decision, the reasons I am leaving are simple. I accepted my role with ICANN in December 2006 with the expectation that I’d commute the 300 miles to Los Angeles four days a week. I did that for twenty months, after which I chose to relocate to Los Angeles – both to do a better job for ICANN, and to see my wife of 27 years every once and a while :-) . After relocating for what will be more than two years, and much family discussion, we’ve determined that our life is not in Los Angeles.

ICANN needs a full-time, Los Angeles-based Chief Operating Officer, and recruiting for this role will begin almost immediately. For anyone considering the role, it is a great job! Of course a key to success is working well with the community, Board, staff and CEO. I greatly appreciate – at both the personal and professional levels – the respect and support Rod has shown for me and for the role of COO. We have worked closely and extremely well together.

So let me reflect a bit. When leaving an organization, it is natural to think about what has changed. While ICANN still has several areas where it is deliberately evolving and improving, I believe it is a transformed organization from the one I joined in 2006. The community, Board and staff I’ve had the privilege to work with have accomplished a great deal. Here are just a few examples.

ICANN’s technology resources and activities have been completely overhauled. During my first three months at ICANN, we had two multi-hour total service outages. Today, ICANN has two professionally run, off-site data centers with much of the needed infrastructure for full business continuity for IANA and other services in place. ICANN operates a world-class root service with the L-root, has DNSSEC-signed icann.org and is on the verge of DNSSEC-signing the root zone with our partners, and more.

ICANN’s accountability through public reporting has changed just as much. Just a few of these changes include a public dashboard that reports monthly on a wide array of ICANN’s activities – from finances to IANA performance. Financial reporting has gone from telegraphic to discursive, with at least four different ways of reporting on and understanding ICANN’s expenditures. ICANN has also published executive compensation data and background on the entire compensation approach, and much more.

At a community support level, we’ve dramatically enhanced remote meeting participation, staff support for policy development, thorough and timely analysis of public comment processes, and more. For international participation, translation and interpretation has gone from almost nothing to routine support of the five UN languages in publication and on some teleconferences. Support has also meant working more collaboratively with stakeholders on issues like compliance, resulting in better communication and measurably more effective enforcement.

Finally, as COO, you’d hope I care about operations! Probably not that visible to most community members is a rigorous internal management process where personal accountabilities for completing ICANN’s approved operating plan are assessed thrice yearly, and objectives are aligned across the organization. Another important management process has been the IANA Business Excellence project begun about a year ago that has already improved our IANA services, and will help us continue to evolve the IANA function over time.

And ICANN’s financial security is better than ever, with an investment policy that weathered one of the worst financial downturns in the last 100 years, and has now returned several million dollars to ICANN’s reserve fund now standing at $47MM.

I know that in the middle of ICANN’s challenging work, it can sometimes be frustrating that things aren’t moving fast enough (or are moving too fast :-). I offer these reflections to provide the perspective that in my experience of ICANN, things have substantially transformed, and in a relatively short time. The work of everyone involved in ICANN has made that possible, and I believe that three years from now, the pace of improvement will have accelerated.

Let me personally thank the many of you who have advised and supported me. I look forward to staying in touch with all of you, wherever life may take me. While the passage of time made it easy for my wife and me to decide that it was time to move on, leaving ICANN has been a very difficult decision. Yes, it can be frustrating at times, but in much greater measure, it does very important work and has achieved a great deal. I am honored to have played a part in that.


Doug Brent