| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Amer Project for the establishment of a national call center is an important part of the wider Yesser Project, which establishes a new e-government service that replaces an archaic and dysfunctional system with one that not only aims to serve the public but to do it dispassionately, equitably and efficiently. This system combines the provision of public services into one whole, where there were previously more than 300 fragmented parts. Yesser has aimed, in one leap, to shift the parameters of public service provision from one which was modern, or even pre-modern, to one which is post-modern in philosophy as well as in functionality. In order to remain aligned with these aims, Amer has separately faced similar challenges, both technical and societal, to those faced by Yesser. Therefore, it can be contextualized as a stand-alone project as well as one which is a key segment of a wider national vision for the provision of services to the Saudi people.
The action plan for the development of the National Call Center was initiated in 2011 following confirmation of its need during the implementation of the first action plan for Yesser, and it was incorporated within the second action plan (of Yesser). There were two major phases, one which lasted for six months, and one of thirty six months duration. The first phase therefore began in 2011 and the second phase is now drawing to a close. The chronology, key development steps and main activities are shown below:
2006 – 2010
One critical aspect of the first action plan of Yesser was engagement with and listening to stakeholders. Based on the feedback received, existing plans to introduce and fully align the National Call Center with Yesser were refined and drafted.
2011 – 2012: The solution development phase (6 months)
By the third month of this phase, the following were delivered:
• The final analysis documents for NCC CRM and the Portal
• The call center system architect and workflow document
• An SLA was signed with government agencies, departments and Yesser
By the sixth month of this phase, the following were delivered:
• A completed NCC CRM and portal implementation plan
• A completed National Call Center systems implementation plan
• A completed plan for the integration of government agencies systems and databases with Amer
By the end of this first phase, the following had also been initiated:
• A quality monitoring plan
• National Call Center operations
The major deliverables for this phase included:
• A project charter
• A project scope documents
• A recruitment plan
• A project management plan
• A project schedule
• An employee training plan
• The identification and funding of all necessary software and hardware
• A quality management plan
• The identification of a suitable customer relationship management (CRM) system that could be adapted to the NCC
2012 – 2015: Integration across government agencies, Yesser and society, shared infrastructures alongside the installation and implementation of the NCC (in chronological order)
This action plan included:
• The complete updating of the knowledge based system for GA services
• The delivery of quality monitoring results and the improvement plan
• Signature for final acceptance of the NCC
• Closing of the implementation of the project and its handing over to Amer
The final deliverables for Phase 2 are:
• A fully integrated call center, with all business processes having been identified and implemented
• Fully integrated in-bound and out-bound services
• A functioning NCC portal with related information and modules
• The full integration of data and telecom functions with all relevant government departments and agencies
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The germination of the initiative existed within the original vision for Yesser, which in turn was initiated by the Council of Ministers, who had become increasingly aware of the fact that the people of Saudi Arabia were being let down by the existing system for public service delivery. Thus, it stemmed from the recognition of societal dissatisfaction, and from a recognition by Yesser that in order to provide that which the people of Saudi Arabia demanded, such an additional facility was of critical importance. This understanding, furthermore, was developed through consultations with stakeholders, particularly government agencies and departments and service users, during the course of the first action plan of Yesser.
Following the cementation of the initiative within Yesser, a request for proposals was developed and distributed by Deloitte to private companies and from the tender documents submitted, a successful operating model was put forward and accepted by the firm Smart Link Customer Contact and Outsourcing Services, which resulted in a project plan for the National Contact Center.
Once the partnership between Yesser and Smart Link was established, Amer was created and a number of government agencies joined the scheme, such as the Saudi E-government Portal, The Department of Zakat and Income Tax, The Ministry of the Civil Services, Saudi Post, The National Center for Digital Certifications, The SADAD Payment System, The Communications and Information Technology Commission, and The Saudi E-Government Achievement Award Body.
The range of public, private and community stakeholders subsequently widened as the project evolved and developed. For example, the technological aspect was a joint venture between several entities that included Avaya, who provided knowledge related to the configuration and integration of the unified support number and calling systems and SURE, who provided expertise on the configuration and development of a dynamic customer relationship management system.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Saudi E-Government Program (Yesser) is funded from the general budget of the Government of Saudi Arabia. The initial amount allocated was SAR 3 billion (USD 800 million) and the incremental release of funding over the course of this wider project has remained stable. Funding for Amer (the body which oversees the National Call Center Project) has been allocated from the Yesser budget and this is SAR 40 million (approximately USD 10.6 million), which has been (and is being) distributed over the 42 months, covering the two main phases of the project.
Approximately 10 per cent of this budget was allocated for the first (6 month) phase of the National Call Center Project. The majority of this was used in developing the required technology, including software, acquiring premises, the development of necessary plans, the production of necessary documents, seeking the appropriate human resources for future employment and initiating training and development plans to enhance the skills of those who will be employed.
A process of evaluation was undertaken by the Project Team to consider and select the technological systems that would represent the right solution for the needs of users and of government agencies and departments. This important task led to the selection of the Avaya Aura Contact Center System, which combines all of the necessary engagement channels on one screen, regardless of the many potential communication channels chosen by users. This facility means that the core principle underpinning Yasser, of multiple provisions within one system, could be maintained.
The dynamic of continuously updating the system based on the demonstrated preferences and expressed views of users was a key requirement and this was met by the development of a Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management System, which has a reputation for being both user friendly and up to date. Following the successful installation and implementation of this system, it has been rolled out to partners in government agencies and departments, to further ensure the unification of the system.
In order that knowledge is gained and quality maintained, a knowledge management system has also been acquired and integrated within the system. This effectively acts as a repository where information is gained and stored and where updated government agency and department catalogues are kept for easy access by NCC agents as they respond to user enquiries.
Consultants were engaged in the Project in order that the process of planning, implementation and evaluation could be carried out seamlessly and professionally. During the initiation phase, for example, multiple resources were used from different parties and Deloitte consultants helped to build and develop the RFP, which resulted in a focused and targeted scope of NCC services. As the technical aspects of the project evolved and became more complex, consultants from Microsoft were engaged to ensure that all of the objectives stated in the RFP were reflected in the design of the CRM solution, which resulted in a very successful implementation of the dynamic MS system.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The program has many concrete outputs and four are listed below:
Department of Zakat and Income Tax
Because they were unable, due to workload, to provide a dedicated remote response service, this department only received an average of 20 telephone calls each day from users, who had often been kept on hold for long periods. The result was that in order to get assistance from staff, most users had to visit the offices, often involving long journey times. Once there, they had to queue, complete their paperwork and submit it within the office hours of 8am – 2 pm. This commonly meant a day lost from work, from caring for children and families, or from a range of other productive activities.
The NCC now has hundreds of toll-free calls daily (approximately 1,500 per week at the last count) from users who can use 8 support channels to deal with their Zakat and Income tax queries and forms in a fraction of the time previously taken.
This is a program that is within the Yasser framework. It supports a range of vulnerable groups, with a particular focus on youth unemployment. Prior to the implementation of the NCC, and despite the best efforts of staff, the program was fragmented, had difficulties in reaching those it wished to serve (the most vulnerable and isolated in society) and therefore struggled to reach its goals. Now, most if not all of these difficulties have been overcome as disaffected, reserved and uninformed potential clients can (and do) access the service through the National Call Center.
The Electronic Medical Board
It is not an exaggeration to say that the gaining of access to medical records by health professionals can be the difference between life and death in some accidents and other emergencies. With appropriate safeguards regarding confidentiality, medical records can now be accessed almost instantaneously through the National Call Center, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Education Certificate Services
Confirmation and verification of education certificates is commonly used by employers and places of education and higher education in Saudi Arabia. Appropriate authentication has to be obtained for each application and this caused many problems in the past, with much time lost and even people not getting the job or the college place if the records had been misplaced or were incorrect. Now such requirements can be speedily, seamlessly and accurately dealt with through the NCC.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Standards provide guidelines, rules and characteristics for projects whether they are iterative or dynamic and evolutionary. They are, furthermore, based on what are considered as being best practices from the world of project management and these are updated as the dynamics of the wider subject area expands and develops. These were implemented throughout each of the project phases and used as a yardstick for monitoring and evaluating the progress of the project as it evolved. This was the criteria (and the challenge) from the initiation of the project (with the signing of the project charter) to the planning and approval of the project scope, time, cost, human resources, risk and procurement management plans, creating baselines and setting project delivery milestones, to the execution of the plan as per the approved plans.
Further monitoring and controlling throughout the lifecycle of the Project was undertaken by ensuring that the Project Deliverables met the set requirements which had been approved by the sponsor. This extends up to and including the final approval and project closure. With regard to the running of the NCC, enduring and customized key performance indicators (KPI’s) ensured that the levels of service provision remained within the accepted time and quality parameters, often exceeding them. These KPI’s incorporated comprehensive service level agreements that included staff availability, quality and service conditions.
An applied quality monitoring plan (QM) has been instigated and this measures the extent to which agents comply with internal policies and procedures and in how they interact with customers by phone, email, SMS, fax, web chat and all other interactive services. This plan also extends to the alignment of customer satisfaction surveys with internal measurements to provide a 360-degree view of the customer experience. The NCC Quality Monitoring Program is designed to demonstrate and ensure that the Centre maintains and develops its commitment to users on the one hand and to agencies, departments and to its agents (employees) on the other. This has been identified through researching best practices as they are essential for building world-class contact centers. The key benefits that have accrued from the combination of activities in monitoring and evaluation can be summarized as being designed to ensure increased levels of customer satisfaction, increased levels of agent efficiency and, in line with the comprehensive and ongoing training provided, enhancing the overall quality of performance.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Two main problems were encountered at the implementation stage of the national contact centre, and these were:
Several technology companies were involved in the development of the Project and the nature of the task meant that there were high degrees of interdependency between these partners. This effectively meant that the progress of the whole undertaking at this stage was limited to the speed of the partner making the slowest progress. One encountered difficulties with the delivery of several technical components and therefore operations commenced several months later than had been planned.
This unanticipated delay meant that a decision had to be made, which was whether to continue according to the timeframes set out (which would have meant that the delay would have carried on through the Project), or to find ways of accelerating it without compromising any important aspects such as quality, monitoring and ensuring that PMI standards were upheld. A potential solution was found, which entailed intensifying efforts in the recruitment process and this allowed the time lost to be recovered. In the end, the NCC serviced more customers than originally targeted in the first period after going live.
A potentially more serious problem was resistance from some government agencies as the time drew nearer when they would have to share parts of their operations with the NCC, in some cases even being reluctant to complete the required handover documentation, or comply with the required processes and procedures put in place by Amer.
Because this problem was identified at a relatively early stage, it was overcome through extensive formal and informal communication that explained the value of the NCC to government agencies and the positive impact it would have in improving the accuracy, integrity, availability and cost effectiveness of their operations, without undermining their authority or integrity.