Ministry of Foreign Affairs Portal
Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Saudi Arabia

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
With the various services offered and specialized departments working under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), individuals and organizations often experienced delays and difficulties in accessing these services physically or over the telephone and email. However, in most cases, the opportunity to voice and communicate such difficulties and concerns were non-existent. The need to track requests and applications required physically going to the respective department several times and completing applications with various documents due to ambiguity in information on requirements for various applications and services. Official website content of the MoFA was rarely updated and coordinated well with online portals making access online to MoFA services ineffective. Additionally, complaints and suggestions from citizens and visitors were difficult to resolve and acknowledge due to little coordination between departments and employees and no official room for voicing concerns available. The portal was launched in 2005 and later redesigned in 2013 in an effort to integrate all MoFA services on a single platform that allows citizens, residents and visitors to access all services and departments of the MoFA from any location at any point in time and to communicate effectively with the Ministry through various eParticipation approaches that would allow engagement and interaction on various important issues and challenges faced by citizens, residents and visitors. The portal also works to continuously analyse citizen feedback and ideas to improve the MoFA’s organizational performance and service delivery. It further addresses increasing challenges faced with visa applications, particularly those relating to pilgrimage or Hajj visa applications which exceeded 10 million annually submitted via over 116 Visa Application Centers and over 3000 hajj and umra agency centers outside Saudi Arabia.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The top management at MoFA realized at early time the importance of facilitating the communication with target clients all around the world, which in other words means activating the e channels in term of lunching external and internal websites. The portal serves as a platform for voting and eParticipation as well as providing room for citizens to voice their concerns, opinions and complaints. Another key objective of the portal is to place various functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs such as the official website, portal of services and embassies outside the Kingdom, the job portal and eVisa portal into one integrated system that would allow for eParticipation and involvement of users, whether citizens, residents or visitors, in the improvement and ever-continuous development of the MoFA services. This serves as a sub objective of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' goal of delivering ubiquitous and channel harmonized customer centric eServices where citizen needs and expectations are a first priority. This as well, standardized conditions and terms for various processes and procedures that was posing challenges for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This allows for services by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be categorized into various sections such as services for citizens living abroad, affiliation and accreditation services as well as eVisa services. The services included on the platform are - The Ministry’s official website and its services - The Saudi Arabian foreign affairs portal and relevant services for Saudi Arabian citizens abroad - The job portal - The eVisa portal - Internal intranet portal for MoFA employees and departments - eParticipation pages (links to social media accounts, polls, surveys, complaints page, ‘add an idea’ page, ‘voice your opinion’ page) The project further enhances accessibility by being accessible through the MoFA mobile applications available across all basic mobile versions and smartphone platforms including Apple and Android in Arabic and English. Furthermore, it contributes to the achievement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' objectives and main business drivers of: • Empowered decision making • Knowledge-driven diplomacy • Operational efficiency • Service excellence The target audience of the initiative includes: - Individuals: citizens, residents, diplomats and general visitors - Organisations: private companies, governmental institutions and non private institutions, in addition to diplomat missions Some figures and facts: mofa.gov: Instead of contacting different department at MOFA to get information about the requirements of any services, we developed a service catalogue that classify all services according to service type, user type, service location, in addition we add detailed description for each service and automatic application form. Now we have automated services that minimize service delivery days. embassies.mofa.gove Saudis abroad used to visit the embassy building for any official transaction or procedures. Now all Saudi abroad can apply to the services and know the requirements online through embassies site. Visa.mofa.gov.sa All visa services were gathered and displayed at one site. Individuals and organizations no longer need to visit mofa or any related entity to follow up any service. All services were integrated with INJAZ (the official site for visa mofa e services were all services related with other entity can be done through INJAZ site) Mymofa Mofa employee able now to find all paper forms in a seconds at the internal site (mymofa) were previously they need to call or visit each department to get the original forms. In addition mymofa enhance the information transparency were all important announcement about promotions or training opportunity now displayed at the home page of mymofa.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Launched in 2005, the portal was one the first of its kind in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) . The innovative nature of the portal can be seen via its following key features:It enables eParticipation through various channels such as social media accounts, surveys and polls, opinion surveys and the opportunity to ‘add an idea’ that is evaluated by the Ministry and considered for future projects and improvements  The portal also allowed connectivity with communities in remote areas where consulates or service centers did not exist through providing them with the opportunity to apply for a visa without going through the time and effort associated with travelling to locations with service centers.  It provides all eService to end users via MoFA portal  The federated update of the portal web content using web content management feature  It offers a single face to MoFA for external users (Internet portal) and internal users (Intranet)  The portal has improved the operational efficiencies by providing MoFA employees with a one stop shop to access information as well as eServices

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Enhancement of Moa portals goes through different phases as below: Phase Duration Deliverables Initiation and planning one week Project Plan Project Schedule Requirements' development one weeks Requirements' specifications documents Design and technical solution five weeks Design Document SharePoint Upgrade 7 weeks End user training workshops IT admin Training Training Material Development five weeks Testing six weeks Verification and validation two weeks Deployment one week Executables Deployment Guide Release Note These items are in the delivery and scope of the strategy: MOFA Web Portals Enhancement Solution • Create a branding guideline for MOFA user interface • Fixing maximum of ten (10) custom web parts to be upgradable to SharePoint 2013 • Upgrade, Enhance, redesign, implement, and test new user interface design for MOFA portals according the following phases: o Initial Phase  Assessment of the current portal upgradeability to SharePoint 2013 to provide the following: • Infrastructure status • Custom component listing • Large Lists listing • Custom view listing • Required effort for upgrade • Upgrade Plan o Phase I (three months after requirements gathering):  Upgrade the following portals technology from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 • Internet Main Portal • Mobile Portal • Embassies Portal • Intranet portal  Create three different graphics design for MOFA portal.  MOFA Main Portal approved new design implementation and deployment for Arabic and English portals.  MOFA Mobile version Redesign Implementation  Gap analysis with YESSER guidelines related to usability o Phase II (two months):  Implementation of the new design for the following portals for Arabic and English portals: • Visa services Portal (http://visa.mofa.gov.sa) • Embassies Portal • Recruitment Portal • Intranet portal  Content Editing and Authoring workflow implementation • Enhance current SharePoint publishing workflow through providing 1 (one) new publishing and approval workflows with maximum of 10 steps per workflow  Implementation of Take a tour video as an exploration for MOFA main features in English and Arabic Languages o Portals Usability Activities:  Analyses Phase • Identify users of current site in order to develop a thorough understanding of the target audience, their typical tasks, and their specific constraints • Conduct meetings with the internal MOFA website Project Team to understand the vision, mission, and objectives of the Web site. • Usability Gab analysis with YESSER guidelines and Industry best practices • Review/analyze customer service email/calls, Web logs and search logs  Design Wireframes and Expert Review Phase • Expert usability review of current Homepages of MOFA portals • Designing Wireframes for Homepages of MOFA Public portals, Mobile version and Intranet website • Review forms and e-services for Basic consistency and alignment issues.  Testing and Recommendations Phase • Test proposed designs with sample 5 users to ensure efficiency and ease of use. • Usability recommendations for immediate enhancements to the current portals  Supported browsers • IE 8,9 Firefox 15, Chrome 10 • 5 days training for administrators and end users • 2 weeks warranty for Phase one starts after phase one deployment • 3 weeks warranty for phase two starts after phase two deployment Attached file (MOFA_Web Portals Enhancements- (Gantt chart) (2) Project Team: This involved training and educating employees in the various centers involved to adapt to the new approach to working and processing visa applications. It also involved building a technical support team that is available 24 hours a day to provide assistance for both in-house employees, customers and users. Technology: The MoFA portal used the following technology and systems to enables its smooth running: Smart phone applications and mobile phone programs Website and online systems using Asp.Net 4.0, HTML 5, CSS 3, MVC4, Jquery. The system was built using multi-tier architecture design which partitions the system components logically and physically into three independent layers; front-end (Web), middle tier (Middleware), and database layer.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The design and implementation of the initiative has been contributed to by several stakeholders. This is a continuous process as the MoFA portal is continuously developed and upgraded to improve accessibility and transparency in information for users based on feedback from various stakeholders who include: - Saudi Arabian citizens inside the Kingdom - Saudi Arabian citizens residing outside the Kingdom - Diplomats and diplomat organisations - Governmental organisations inside and outside Saudi Arabia - Relevant private businesses and non-governmental organisations - Potential residents and visitors - Relevant multinational companies inside and outside the Kingdom - Charitable and humanitatiran organisations inside the Kingdom
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
This initiative has been implemented through a third party with international successful record in implementing similar projects. Mofa was mentoring, supervising and guiding the implementation to make sure the initiative criteria match the international standards. The team compromise different group forming above 20 specialists as below:  Project manager,  Team Leader,  Senior Systems Analyst  Senior Graphic Designer  Usability Engineer  Senior User Interface Developer  Senior Software Engineer  Senior Quality Engineer  Quality Engineer  Senior Technical Writer Artwork Team Our Artwork & Usability team is responsible for creating creative look by producing work of quality and creativity. The team consists of a group of creative and experienced experts and artists who are motivated to provide their best, and always meet and exceed customer’s expectations. They follows a standard process that helps deliver top-class artwork and successful user experience. The Creative Graphic Design category involves providing Graphical User Interface (GUI), website, and application interface design including the application branding and identity (represented in correct user experience, main layout, icons…etc), PowerPoint presentations, diagrams, multimedia presentations, Flash interactive work, Silverlight components and animations, in addition to any other graphical, visual, or artistic work required for the project or by the customer. The User Interface (UI) Development involves the implementation of the created graphics design using the necessary tools (HTML work, ASPX creation, SharePoint, CSS-, JavaScript, and dynamic/interactive flash jobs (ActionScript,). Methodology Steps Origination The Artworks team met with internal customer & business users to identify their business needs, business field & marketing objectives-defining target users, and the message mofa wants to deliver through the project. Brainstorming The team analyzed MOFA requirements, came up with preliminary ideas, created draft sketches, and produced Requirements Analysis document. Then, the team met with MOFA to review Requirements Analysis. Information Architecture The artwork team created the initial look and feel of the site, while the usability experts develop the site map, wireframes, navigation, and main layout, ensuring that all technical standards are clear to meet the desired functionality of the site. Graphical Design The graphics designer started translating wireframes into graphical designs to create graphical prototypes. Prototype Development Convert the graphical outputs into working templates to create application. UI Review After having a working website, the team ensures outcomes are matching with the graphical designs made earlier. The developed prototype were reviewed and fixed to match the original design. Prototype Usability Testing Usability testing aims to monitor users using the system in a realistic situation; thus discovering errors and working on areas of improvement. Usability Results & Recommendations After conducting the prototype testing, the usability engineer created their Recommendation document that helps in enhancing the final system. Prototype developer applied the appropriate changes and resends the system for prototype testing. Deployment Prepare the site to be launched, ensuring a continuous and thorough testing to create a flawless final site. The project cost was 930,000 Saudi Riyals (USD 250,000) funded directly by MoFA ICT Budget

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
• An increase in visitors between 2010 and 2014 by 47 % • Customer satisfaction of 85% reported by users • Procedures and processes are increasingly being carried out through website portal and mobile applications with 75.4% through pc and laptops, 19% through smartphones and 4.4% through tablets. • Services transaction timeframe were reduced from 2 weeks to 1-2 day max The portal was awarded the following following awards: • 3rd GCC eGovernment Conference Excellence Award 2013. • Middle East Excellence Award for eGovernment Services 2013

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The MoFA uses several benchmarks to evaluate the implementation and progress of the project which include focus groups and market research survey, card sorting and Yesser (the Saudi Arabian eGovernment program)’s eParticipation guidelines and international resources. The portal is evaluated by several key performance indicators including: - Number of visitors - Number of resolved issues processed online successfully - Number of applications and requests made online - Number of search requests made - Customer satisfaction surveys and responses - Percentage of ideas and suggestions executed from ‘add an idea’ suggestion page - Number of issues processed and resolved through smartphone and mobile platforms

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Throughout the various phases of the project, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs managed and overcame the following challenges: • Categorising Ministry services • Redesigning website portal systems • Gathering all internal services into one main menu • Gaining internal stockholder support and acceptance of change, especially for internal site • Applying the new look and feel and structure change to all embassies and visa sites were different business woners are involved and different approvals and supports were need. D. IMPACT AND SUSTAINABILITY (40 percent of the overall rating)

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The launch of the MoFA portal has introduced a new approach for both governments and citizens in interacting with each other. This has been particularly through shifting mindsets on decision making and innovation through citizen participation and involving the public in decisions and projects launched by the Ministry. The publishing of eParticipation guidelines and policies on the portal customized to Saudi Arabia, which guides citizens and governmental employees on eParticipation and engaging with each other through various channels and approaches. (http://www.mofa.gov.sa/E-Participation/Pages/PublishingPolicies.aspx). This shift in citizen mindset and changing of citizens’ perspectives of governmental transactions and services has been evident through the significant increase of portal visitors (47% in visitors between 2010 and 2014). Above 96 ideas submitted, were 36 of them were implemented by mofa. Additionally, the MoFA portal has allowed better and more effective intergovernmental collaboration and communication within the Ministry itself. With the integration of all MoFA services on one platform, the portal has called for the need for departments to share knowledge, information and ideas between themselves and to thus provide better information transparency and accessibility through its whole-of-government approach. Consequentially, Saudi Arabia was one of the countries to secure a more than 66.6 percent on the whole-of-government index in the UN’s 2014 eGovernment Survey. We created separate website for all saudi missions abroad either embassy, delegation or counsels. The objective of that to facilitate the interaction between the mission and the saudi abroad. In India for example we created a site for the mission at New Delhi and another site for the consulate in Mumbai. Another example in USA we created 5 website for North America as below: - Saudi Embassy web site at Washington - Saudi Consulate web site at New York - Saudi Consulate web site at Houston - Saudi Consulate web site at Los Angeles - Saudi UN Delegate web site at New York

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
A core factor in the MoFA initiative is that most visitors apply for a visa for a religious obligation of hajj or pilgrimage. With better standard of living in more countries compared to earlier years and ease of travel, visa applicants are ever-increasing to perform the obligatory hajj which guarantees a continuous cultural and social sustainability. The hajj pilgrimage is also a priority in the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s strategy where funding is heavily focused on improving the quality of services for pilgrims and religious tourists. This calls for continuous improvement and development of services associated with hajj applications and processing. In many cases, a significant number of visa applicants desperate to perform the religious pilgrimage seek an effective method and channel to communicate with the MoFA on their special issues and cases on an individual basis. Additionally, the optional pilgrimage called ‘Umra’ is also performed in Saudi Arabia’s main city of Mecca. This pilgrimage can be performed during any time of the year and is particularly popular during spiritually significant months of the lunar year such as Ramadan where many Muslims apply for visas to perform umra. This adds to the continuous need for effective systems which enhances the sustainability of the initiative. Saudi Arabia as a country has the unique advantage of being a ‘guaranteed’ popular site for travel for the reason of being the only country where the cities of Mecca and Madina where hajj and Umra are performed exist. This permanent advantageous feature is a significant factor for the initiative’s sustainability and continuity. As a religious obligation, hajj is an issue that is regarded highly important and is valued by Muslims all over the world. Here, Saudi Arabia holds a competitive advantage of a guaranteed reason for users to be encouraged to participate in polls and suggestion boxes that concern improving services related to their hajj travels.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The MoFA initiative has provided the Ministry an experiential insight on how involving relevant stakeholders in the launching and implementation process of initiatives can bring about optimal results. Additionally, the need for incremental innovation or introducing new innovative projects in ‘phases’ has helped the Ministry in facing technical and other related issues that arose. Lessons learnt include and are not limited to: 1. The importance of establishing guidelines and policies when launching new projects relating to eServices – this is particularly applicable to the eParticipation aspect of the project where citizens and stakeholders are invited to engage in a novel way that is being newly introduced and which many users may perceive as risky if guidelines on how to participate are ambiguous 2. The importance of engaging and involving stakeholders and the public in the launching new projects particularly in the advanced stages of the portal where answering and meeting demands and expectations is crucial. 3. The need to align initiatives with overarching governmental strategies and objectives to measure relevance of projects and their feasibility 4. The significance of focusing on citizen needs before departmental needs when providing governmental services 5. Involving all stakeholders in the project and ensuring that no aspects of the project conflict each other 6. The crucial need for technology-driven initiatives and human capital where people have an aptitude for continuous learning and improvement 7. The importance of analysing project ideas and identifying potential benefits and challenges

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Saudi Arabia
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Reem Alzamil
Title:   Senior Project Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   00966505446536
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   ralzamil@mofa.gov.sa  
Address:   Alnassryah St.
Postal Code:   11544
City:   Riyadh
State/Province:   Riyadh
Country:  

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