How Wake County Successfully Transitioned to .Gov (And How You Can Too)

October 30, 2023

picture of neon sign of two hands shaking

In an ever-evolving digital landscape, trust and credibility are paramount. Government entities face the never-ending challenge of ensuring that their online presence reflects their authenticity. Driven by the need to enhance public perception and fortify their digital security against malicious actors, many organizations are considering transitioning from their old domains to “.gov”. 

Interpersonal Frequency recently supported Wake County, North Carolina, as they successfully planned and executed the move to Through a candid interview with key figures behind this endeavor, we can share with you the thought processes, strategies, and lessons learned from Wake County's transition.

The Urgency Behind the Shift: From Perceptions to Security

The primary catalyst behind Wake County's transition to a .gov domain was twofold: bolstering public trust and security. In our discussions, Nicole Shumaker, the IT Project Manager, highlighted the need for this change because .gov domains can only be obtained by government entities. She emphasized how procuring a .gov domain necessitates rigorous authentication of a government entity, inherently safeguarding it from impersonation attempts. This assurance becomes especially critical during tumultuous times, as witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Another key figure in this transition shared how the risk of misinformation during the pandemic underscored the urgency of having a .gov domain.

Team Structure: Orchestrating Change with Precision

The transition was orchestrated by a meticulously structured team, led by an executive decision-maker with support from project managers and Wake’s communications and change management specialist. 

What stood out?

Crucial to Wake’s success was the creation of department delegates – representatives from every county department nominated to identify potential impacts. These delegates played a pivotal role in assessing the effect of the transition on various business processes. Notably, the involvement of their CISO, and other authentication system owners proved crucial in navigating the authentication challenges that arose.

Analyzing Impact: A Comprehensive Approach

Transitioning to a .gov domain entailed a comprehensive impact assessment. Nicole Shumaker explained that this involved scrutinizing many software systems for authentication changes and prioritizing their move to the new domain. 

The identification of federated vs. non-federated systems was a key consideration, ensuring that the average employee's user experience remained relatively unaffected. This approach, while complex, served to streamline the transition process, sparing employees from unnecessary disruptions.

Mitigating Disruption: The Balancing Act

Maintaining seamless service while undergoing such a transition was a formidable task. Wake County employed various strategies to ensure minimal disruption. The County’s intranet served as a central hub of information, allowing employees to stay updated on the transition. Copious emails were sent out, and communication with community partners was established. This multi-pronged approach aimed to maintain consistency and minimize confusion.

Crucial Building Blocks

Effective staff training and change management were cornerstones of this transition.  The communications office played a pivotal role in disseminating information through emails, intranet pages, newsletters, and even a designated group email address. This proactive approach minimized misunderstandings and fears, ensuring a smooth transition.

To market, or not to market? 

The county's creative social media campaign for the project, "Love Your .gov," demonstrates the efficacy of innovative approaches in building community engagement. 

From Lessons to Best Practices

Wake County's experience offers valuable lessons for municipalities contemplating a similar transition. Here are a few tips:

  • Start by assessing all of your websites, applications, systems, and printed material that will be affected by the change.  
  • Develop a plan for migrating each system to the new domain.
  • Communicate with employees throughout the transition process.
  • Work closely with vendors and partners to ensure that their systems are compatible with the new domain.
  • Allow for a discovery phase to identify any unexpected challenges.

Wake County's transition to a .gov domain exemplifies a proactive approach to public perception and cybersecurity. By creating a robust team structure, embracing impact assessment, and prioritizing effective communication, they successfully navigated this transformation. 

As government entities continue to grapple with the evolving digital landscape, Wake County's experience serves as a guiding light, highlighting the path toward trust, security, and seamless digital governance. 

Want to learn more about how your organization can transition to .gov? Reach out to us.