In the last instalment in a series focused on the RIPE NCC’s Draft Activity Plan and Budget 2024, the RIPE NCC’s CEO and Managing Director, Hans Petter Holen, talks us through maintaining a strong organisation through 2024 and the overall picture of the Activity Plan.
Draft Activity Plan and Budget 2024
Our Draft Activity Plan and Budget 2024 sets out our plans for the year ahead, along with the associated costs. It has now been published in draft form, and a consultation opened to hear your views on our activities and where the money is spent. Following an open house to receive input from members, there will be further discussion at the RIPE NCC General Meeting before a final version is approved by the RIPE NCC Executive Board and published in December.
Maintaining a strong organisation
Looking at the world around us, it seems increasingly unstable, economically uncertain, and politically fractured. We are also seeing the consolidations of LIRs and the need to cut costs ourselves, which means the financial stability of the organisation has taken priority when thinking about planning for next year.
It is against this backdrop that we have decided on four strategic focus points for the year ahead:
- Be a centre of excellence for data, measurements and tools that provide insight on the Internet and its operations
- Ensure the organisation’s stability and financial strength
- Be resilient in the face of political, legislative and regulatory changes that have the potential to affect our operations
- Maintain the necessary levels of security and compliance with best practices and applicable regulations
Our focus in planning for 2024 has, therefore, been on finding efficiencies and making further budget reductions without impacting the stability of the organisation. Practically speaking, this has led us to reduce our budget by 2 million euro. We achieved this by exploring new options for carrying out these activities and prioritising our most effective strategies and tools as opposed to cutting services or reducing FTEs. We made the most savings in five areas of our spending:
- 1.8M 36% Consultancy
- 0.8M 18% Information Technology
- 0.4M 14% Outreach & Public Relations
- 0.3M 19% Contributions
- 0.2M 20% Travel
Our organisation must be resilient to regulatory, political and financial challenges, which we will inevitably face in 2024. We must be compliant with relevant legislation and take reasonable steps to make sure we are secure against external threats. This is the work of the Organisational Sustainability area of the RIPE NCC. Under this umbrella, we have our Information Security, Risk and Compliance, Legal, HR, Finance, and Facilities teams alongside the Office of the Managing Director. When planning for 2024, our priorities in these areas have been ensuring security and compliance, building resilience and managing risks.
Compliance with sanctions has been one of our major concerns in recent years. Recently, our Legal team successfully confirmed with the Dutch government that two EU sanctions exemptions applied to a number of our members. The work here continues, as we are ultimately seeking a blanket exemption from all types of sanctions so we can provide uninterrupted service to members throughout our service region. Alongside these efforts, our Information Security, Risk and Compliance teams will work to keep the NCC resilient to security challenges by implementing internationally recognised security frameworks like the ISO 27000 series and a risk management framework.
To handle the economic challenges ahead, our Finance team will continue to look for efficiencies in our budgeting. We will also work with an external treasury party on our investment portfolio to try and offset the impact of inflation and potentially even generate a return on our clearing house reserves. Our Finance team has also been investigating options that would allow us to finally collect payments from members in Ultra High-Risk Countries (as defined by Dutch banks), which could generate some extra income in 2024. This is taking quite some time due to the complexity of the issue. Currently, EUR 2.4 million in funds owed to the RIPE NCC cannot be collected due to this restriction on the part of our banks.
Internally, we will continue to develop policies and procedures that create the most productive environment for staff to carry out our work without becoming too rigid. We have implemented Employer of Record (EoR) contracts which allow staff to work from outside the Netherlands, and we will further develop our policy on this in the coming year. We have also focused on improving our internal security, and in 2024 we will implement additional security measures in the Amsterdam office as well as increasing staff awareness of security procedures.
Budget savings - organisational sustainability
Our major area of savings in Organisational Sustainability has been in the Office of the Managing Director. We have accomplished this through the removal of a reserve for corporate restructuring costs. Improving our corporate structure and our internal processes is key in our strategy next year, as this will allow us to further streamline the way we work and help our staff be as effective as possible. We expect to do this by developing a fit-for-purpose holistic management system based on methodologies such as Agile and Scrum, Objectives and Key Results, Enterprise Risk Management, and other industry best practices. Most important of all is continuing leadership training and strengthening our culture based on our core values.
Closing the series
This brings us to a close for this series of Labs articles on the draft activity plan and budget. There was a clear call for transparency from the membership when it came to planning next year's activities, and we listened to this call. We included visualisations in the activity plan and budget to more clearly illustrate our budget for 2024, including where we have made savings since 2023.
We held an open house on the activity plan hosted with Executive Board Chair Ondřej Filip and Treasurer Raymond Jetten and published five Labs articles, each detailing activities and where we have made cost savings in each area of the organisation. Hopefully, this was of use to members and will help them to engage with this process, as it did require some additional effort on our part.
The Activity Plan RIPE Labs articles
We’ve heard from our Chief Financial Officer Simon-Jan Haytink - in his article on next year’s budget where he spoke on the work we began in 2020 on efficient financial governance - about the implementation of cost controls and how the Charging Scheme discussion earlier this year further reinforced our commitment to these cost efficiency efforts. We then heard from Chief Registry Officer James Kennedy, who detailed - in his first article - how upholding Registry excellence in a changing world is his main priority and how automation and excellent customer services will play an important role next year.
Chief Technology Officer Felipe Victolla Silveira discussed plans for the RIPE NCC’s Information Services with a focus on fostering engaged and competent engineering teams to deliver secure, resilient services with world-class user experience. And in the penultimate article, Chief Community Officer Hisham Ibrahim talked us through how our External Engagement and Community efforts help to sustain the Internet Commons in his article.
A final word
Cutting our budget at the same time as battling inflation and other developments in our service region has been a challenge but one we were in a good position to face thanks to being in a strong financial position. By critically analysing members’ needs for our services and focusing on the most efficient tools and processes to deliver these services, I am proud to see that considerable cost savings have already been achieved in 2023, separate from the plans for a tighter budget in 2024. Despite these reductions, we will spend 2024 improving the way we work and the services we offer.
Now, it is up to you, our members, to have your say on our draft activities and budget for 2024. It is important that you stay informed about our plans and share your thoughts to help us finalise the document. I therefore encourage members to join the discussion on the draft Activity Plan and Budget 2024 at the Autumn General Meeting in Rome. The feedback at this meeting will be taken into account by the RIPE NCC Executive Board when they approve the final Activity Plan and Budget 2024 at their meeting in December. In the meantime, you can also comment until the end of the RIPE meeting on the Membership Discussion mailing list. I sincerely hope to hear from as many of you as possible so that we can build a plan for next year that keeps the RIPE NCC strong and stable.