What is Excellence ?

Excellence: the pathway to progress

2007 was a key moment in the history of Afnic. In February of that year, the Government published a  decree  establishing the principle that the position as manager of the .fr TLD would be renewed every 5 years via a public tender. Afnic staff understood that their future lied in their ability to meet the expectations of their stakeholders. One of the triggers was the statement by a registrar indicating that whether it was "Afnic or someone else, it doesn't matter to me!".

Afnic staff started to prepare their future candidacy, and reviewed their strategy so that the association's entire operation would strengthen its chances of being appointed. IT defined the three main  strategic areas for its contribution to the development of the Internet in France:

  • Ensure a secure and stable service;
  • Promote the development of innovation;
  • Help French stakeholders to play a leading role.

Excellence thus became a collective pathway for defining and effectively deploying that strategy.

For example, these first steps quickly lead to the setting-up of customer relationship officers at Afnic, to provide registrars  with representatives to support them in all of their activities. Since then, the level of satisfaction of these stakeholders has reached levels measured annually, oscillating between 97 and 99%

Thereafter, the international deregulation led Afnic to adopt a multi-registry strategy: it provides its skills as a technical registry operator (TRO) to candidates for new TLD suffixes such as .paris, .bzh, .total or .sncf. Excellence has become a lever to support change in the form of diversification.

Thanks to these initiatives, all of the 14 TLDs supported and operated by Afnic successfully passed first time the tests before their delegation into the root. Similarly, the operational performance of the registration system (the share of transactions performed in less than 3 seconds) has moved a step further forward, in one year rising from 94-95% to 98-99%.

This improvement in our operating performance has been strongly supported by our approach to the security of our information systems, a feature of our organizational DNA marked by our origins (Afnic was created in 1998 as a spin-off from French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control [INRIA]). That intangible asset has enabled us since 2012 to effectively deploy an Information Security Management System (ISMS) that has been certified ISO 27001 by AFNOR, the French national organization for standardization, which found in the first audit that the level of maturity of our ISMS was well established.

Since 2015, when the activity of technical registry operator was successfully launched, our efforts in terms of excellence have focused on the efficiency of our processes, in particular by searching to save time and eliminating the problems encountered in our business in systematic fashion. The time gained corresponds to as many simplifications for domain name holders and registrars, and can be used for new activities involving new services or building up expertise in terms of online presence.

Afnic is aware of the path that remains to be covered to reach that unattainable and yet obligatory ideal of "zero defects" and "zero breakdowns". So while we address the pursuit of excellence with a high degree of modesty, without any claim to being perfect, our aim is to constantly advance towards excellence. Quality and Security are never acquired once and for all; our employees know constant collective vigilance is needed.

Excellence: a focus on corporate social responsibility

For Afnic, excellence means satisfying the expectations of all our stakeholders, by showing that we constantly pay attention to them, and ensuring our employees can provide the best possible answers to those expectations.

The importance of stakeholders has been a major focus for Afnic since its inception. One of the concepts central to its foundation was that of multi-stakeholder governance, involving every kind of stakeholder, because of the vital strategic importance and nature of the resource - the French Internet - entrusted to the association as a common good. That is why our  board of directors  includes representatives of the founding members, including the State, representatives of the registrars who retail the domain names to end customers, representatives of users, who may be domain name holders, representatives of rights-holders (i.e. trademark owners, for example), professional associations [the Association for e-commerce and online services (ACSEL) has long been on the Board] or associations of users [such as the French chapter of the  Internet Society (ISOC)].

Corporate social responsibility is therefore an integral feature of our organization by its very purpose and the building of its business. Afnic's assignment always has focused and always will focus on providing services that are useful to the community, and its operation includes consulting stakeholders to a very large degree.

In so doing, it complies:

  • with one of the founding principles of the Internet explained by Request for Comments: 1591: "These designated authorities are trustees for the delegated domain, and have a duty to serve the community."
  • with a recent decision of the French Council of State (10 June 2013) which officially declared the management of the .fr TLD to be a public service remit. The commitment to create a Support Fund for the Development of the Internet funded by the profits of the .fr TLD is a perfect illustration of our Association’s purpose: "to promote the development of the Internet in France."

But the notion of corporate social responsibility is broader, since it involves going beyond the core assignment or legal commitments of our organization, by taking action to serve the environment, our employees, local communities or society in general.

A continuous improvement initiative focusing on its environmental impact (carbon audit) has been set up since 2012, and benefits from the methodological contribution of operational excellence within Afnic. The establishment, further to the publication of  our first carbon audit in 2014 of an action plan to reduce our carbon impact in absolute value by 2% per year over 10 years is beginning to bear fruit. As a result, the carbon assessment by the independent ECOACT agency shows we achieved a 9% reduction in our carbon footprint between 2012 and 2015. The report shows the gains achieved through our collective purchasing policy, our approach to energy-saving and the adaptation of our travel policy.

Excellence and efficiency go hand in hand

Our excellence initiative consists in developing and continually improving an integrated performance management system, consisting of tangible and intangible elements and relationships between them.

Quality-based construction of the Afnic management system

In 2008, with the imminence of the first call for tenders to manage the .fr TLD and the launch of the multi-registry strategy, Afnic undertook a quality initiative in order to structure its processes and support the growth of its business. The position of quality manager was created. Process mapping was established.

All of the organization's processes were clarified and defined in 2009.

Management of the improvement initiative was implemented in 2010 with:

  • the appointment of process managers,
  • the implementation of process reviews,
  • the choice of operational excellence as one of our strategic priorities.
  • satisfaction surveys (customer surveys and staff surveys) became crucial monitoring and control tools for our processes.

In 2014, an Excellence & Security department was set up to stimulate, support and coordinate the improvement work.

Processes: cross-business cooperation to serve customers

Each process structures the cooperation between all the stakeholders involved to transform a customer expectation or requirement into deliverables that meet previously defined levels of quality, cost and lead-time. Each process helps achieve Afnic's assignment. They result in a shared understanding of the roles of each stakeholder, but also in regular discussion of the performance targets, acceptable risk levels, and of course identification of the failures that are the basis of improvement.

The recommendations from the EFQM assessment in 2014 led us to upgrade the mapping of our processes in order to strengthen our cross-business cooperation and significantly improve the performance indicators for the processes. These indicators are now a direct result of our strategic priorities (strategic map and balanced scorecard) and policies (Quality, Security, Partnerships, CSR).

Information systems: the basis for the security of our IS and our quality of service

Our information security management system (ISMS) covers all of our activities. Given our background, our commitments to the State and the unusual stake involved in our assignment with respect to the .fr namespace, the scope of certification of the ISMS in question covered the basic services of the registry for the .fr TLD. One advantage of that decision was that its scope was sufficiently broad within Afnic (covering 90% of our business) to lead the entire organization in the initiative, another being that it included extremely clear and formally defined expectations. The remaining business (involving the new gTLDs such as .paris) implies a greater number of stakeholders, with more diverse expectations. However, the ultimate objective will be to integrate all of the association in the scope of the ISMS.

While our certification covers the scope of the basic services provided by the .fr TLD, security is organized and applies to all of our activities.

All ISMS activities are integrated with the mapping of business processes - the control of the "Security" and "Excellence" sub-processes is coordinated and shared in an Integrated Management System. A common core fundamental to all the continuous improvement initiatives within the Afnic. A distributed organization based on a network of advisors / IS security ambassadors has been established to deploy and improve the daily security of the IS in all of our processes. This organization complements the network of process managers and works in complete synergy with our integrated management system.

Employees: everyday excellence drivers

Our managers and employees embody the spirit of the integrated management system (and form an intangible component that breathes life into the core system). Processes are only tools to be used by employees to foster cooperation and performance. But they are worthless if employees don't use them.

That is why a training program dedicated to operational excellence was initiated in 2012. It was designed both for managers and non-managers and has been taken by more than 50% of the workforce. In 2014, the logistics resources provided by our new premises  (quality room, wall display, teaching materials) completed the set-up.

Integration of continuous improvement initiatives

The systematic approach to problem-solving in small task groups, is gradually being deployed throughout Afnic and is providing very significant results, including a drastic reduction in the time spent and re-spent on billing, systematic analysis of incidents to improve the availability of infrastructure, a reduction in response times to level 3 support questions, to name but a few. Every business sector is concerned.

This cross-cutting approach to continuous improvement is at the heart of our integrated quality management system, the security of our IS and our corporate social responsibility. It is enriched and increasingly professional thanks to the feedback from previous actions provided during Management reviews.

The excellence initiative allows us to make progress on all our systemic alignments that guarantee better performance on all three operational, managerial and strategic levels.

Excellence: a level of organizational maturity

EFQM to assess the maturity of operational excellence at Afnic

Afnic started its quality initiative by adopting an ISO 9001 type of standard. We structured our processes on the basis of that standard. In 2011, the many changes involved in the launch of our activities as a technical registry operator meant we had to decide whether to opt for certification or manage other major strategic projects.

Afnic chose to pursue its initiative on the basis of the EFQM model. The latter was chosen following discussions with various European counterparts, for its excellent integration of the factors related to stakeholder expectations, its ability to address all the performance factors (customers, human resources and corporate issues) and for its flexibility with respect to the specific features of different organizational models, as a concern that is both a business venture and a public service. Furthermore, the EFQM model is fully compatible with ISO 9001, which allowed us to to quickly capitalize on previous efforts.

EFQM self-assessments were carried out in May 2012 and in December 2013 and then used to drive the continuous improvement initiative. At the end of 2014, an external audit by Afnor awarded Afnic the EFQM "4-star "Recognized for Excellence"" certificate. In addition to the importance of the assessment in terms of the maturity of our integrated management system, these sessions also help us to identify the priorities and objectives for the future.

In February 2017, the Recognised for Excellence label was renewed, confirming Afnic's engagement for improvement.


ISO 27001 Certification

Backed by this recognition, Afnic is continuing its efforts to make progress on its path towards operational and relational excellence with all of our stakeholders.

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