The United Arab Emirates federal government wanted to deliver an improvement plan for public services aimed at reaching strategic targets by the end of 2010. The key to delivery of the transformation strategy is an automated performance management system, called ADAA (performance in Arabic), based on Microsoft® Office PerformancePoint® Server 2007 business intelligence software. Every quarter, federal government entities submit their progress reports to the Prime Minister’s Office, which then uses automated tools to measure their performance based on more than 3,000 key performance indicators. Four analysts can easily review the large amounts of data, whereas it would take tens of people to do the same job manually. The government can now manage ministries and authorities like a private company by analysing reports and providing timely recommendations to enhance their performance.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) currently has one of the fastest growing economies among the oil-rich Gulf States. With its business-friendly, progressive policies, the UAE adopts private sector values in delivering high-quality public services. Today, a rapidly growing construction industry, an expanding manufacturing base, and thriving e-commerce and e-government services make the economy less dependent on income from crude oil sales. On 10 March 2008, Khaleej Times, one of the leading English dailies in the UAE, reported that the non-oil sector contributed 65 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2007.
Recently, the federal government initiated a groundbreaking project to support the economic wellbeing of its people with a world-class public administration system. Through a vision to manage the federation as efficiently as a private sector firm, aggressive goals have been set up for the various ministries aiming to:
- Improve strategic planning and policy-making
- Speed up implementation of policies and projects
- Enhance cooperation between federal and local authorities
- Clearly define each ministry’s role to improve decision making and promote transparency and accountability
The Prime Minister of the UAE, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said during the ceremony of the official launch of the UAE Government Strategy on 17 April 2007: “Ministry strategies will no longer use pen and paper because we’ll have specialised systems to track progress. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) will be responsible for these systems and will systematically report to me on the level of implementation of the strategy.”
In September 2007, the government took the first step by setting up a Government Performance Department at the PMO. To ensure efficient implementation of the strategic and operational plans, it needed a technology to closely monitor the progress of each entity involved—ministries as well as government authorities.
Mona Kazim, Director of the Government Performance Department at the PMO, explains: “Each entity has a three-year strategic plan, each broken down into a yearly operational plan to be achieved within the set quality standards and timeframes. My department assesses each one’s progress based on certain key performance indicators (KPIs). It also compares progress on the basis of shared cross-cutting KPIs based on Balanced Score Card perspectives such as the customer and financial perspectives. Every quarter, we submit these reports to the Prime Minister and to all reporting entities.”
In March 2008, the directorate created the first quarter (Q1) reports manually using Microsoft® Office Excel® spreadsheet software. But it was too cumbersome to e-mail spreadsheets to entities and time-consuming to analyse data—it took the team three weeks to review 36 entities, each reporting just 16 KPIs in Q1.
“By the second quarter, there were going to be over 3,000 KPIs, and more types of reports,” says Mona Kazim. “Managing such a large workload manually would have meant hiring tens of analysts. An automated solution was, therefore, a must to manage this high-level government project.”
The first step was to select a technology vendor that could deliver a reliable solution in just two months, in time for the next quarter’s performance report. Another critical requirement was to have an Arabic interface for the solution—Arabic is the official language of the UAE. After testing technologies by rival companies such as IBM-owned and Ontario-based Cognos and Finland-based QPR, the PMO chose Microsoft as its project partner.
Zakeya Hmoud Alameri, Head of Performance Assessment Section and Project Manager, Government Performance Department, UAE Prime Minister’s Office, says: “According to a Gartner research report as of January 2008, Microsoft is the leader in the execution of business intelligence solutions. This was proved when the company’s consultants guaranteed timely delivery as well as an Arabic interface for our solution. No other vendor could offer us both. Moreover, by signing a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for low-cost volume licensing of software to provide an unlimited number of users access to the new system, we could set an example of cost efficiency in project management for other public service departments.”
A team of nine experts from Microsoft Services worked with the PMO to implement an online performance management solution based on Microsoft Office PerformancePoint® Server 2007—business intelligence software used for reporting, analysis, planning, budgeting, as well as forecasting. Users within the government performance department, ministries, and authorities securely log on to the application from any Internet access through a Web portal built using Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007. The system is supported by Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 data management software and the Windows Server® 2003 operating system.
For phase one of the project Microsoft consultants deployed the Arabic system, now called ADAA (performance in Arabic), in three stages to give users sufficient time to familiarise themselves with the tools.
Phase One: Establishing a Centralised System
Phase one went live in June 2008, just less than two months after starting the project. The first stage of this phase focussed on deploying the right infrastructure and delivering the essential features required to generate quarterly reports. The solution has automated the entire process of collecting performance data from entities, analysing it, and generating reports:
- Once a year, the ministries and government authorities update their strategic and operational plans with its related KPIs in the system and the government performance department reviews and approve this data.
- Key users within entities input the performance results of their KPIs in customised forms in the portal. Then, in less than 10 minutes, analysts at the government performance department and the users themselves can see this data as scorecards.
- Using tools provided by the application, they analyse the trends of shared, strategic, and operational KPIs for each ministry.
- Finally, the system generates quarterly reports, which analysts can send to all concerned at the click of a mouse.
The second stage of phase one was aimed at enhancing the user interface. By October 2008, Microsoft consultants customised the system in line with the government branding protocol. They also added dashboards and scorecards tailored to each user’s performance assessment requirements and administrative functions and created home pages for each entity. There is also a special scorecard presentation for the PMO to see a progress summary for each entity. The Prime Minister can view the information as a comprehensive scorecard comparing performance of all ministries against the overarching strategic objectives.
Phase Two: Measuring Departmental Performance
By the beginning of 2009, the government performance department plans to extend the system to more entities and provide access not just to the key users, but also to individual service departments within each entity. This will help department managers track the progress of their teams in line with the set targets. For example, for one of the ministries involved, currently around six key users review the progress of the whole organisation. In the next phase, each department within an entity will be able to take greater ownership and measure results of their initiatives against their own KPIs.
Phase Three: Implementing Business Intelligence (BI) Tools
In a further commitment to best practice, the PMO plan to integrate its enterprise resource planning systems with the performance management solution and reduce the requirement for time consuming manual data entries, and hence improve accuracy and
quality of data.
ADAA has provided the PMO and federal government entities with a framework for organising and analysing business methodologies, metrics, processes, and systems that drive excellence in public sector performance management. With new concepts, such as automated systems for KPIs, and use of BI tools in administration, the PMO hopes to end silo working in ministries, and transform into a culture that encourages transparency, productivity, and competitiveness.
Change Management Strategy Leads to 100 Per Cent User Adoption
The PMO came up with an innovative change management plan to help the ministries and government authorities start working on the new performance management system from day one. The government performance department first keyed in all the initial data on each entity’s mandates, goals, KPIs, and Q1 reports, and then gave key users two days’ training.
On the first day, users received hands-on experience with the tools by reviewing the existing data. Then the entities entered their actual performance results of Q1as part of the training and Q2 at a later stage “With this two-pronged approach, we could speed up the process of entering large amounts of data to meet the performance report deadline for Q2, and also help users get started from day one,” says Alameri. “At the moment, there are 160 users and we’ve had very few complaints from them about the system over the past three months—user adoption is almost 100 per cent.”
Just Four Analysts Complete the Job of Tens with Automated Processes
Currently, 36 entities submit data through the Office SharePoint portal and the government team measures performance against more than 3,000 KPIs using the Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 application.
“Without the automated system, analysing and reporting such large amounts of data would have required tens of analysts working for us full time. But now, with automated processes, just four analysts in the government performance department can create the quarterly reports,” says Alameri. “In 2009, the system will be available to more entities and the number of users will grow as well. I’m confident that we won’t need to hire any more analysts to manage the increased workloads.”
The time required to analyse data and generate reports has also reduced drastically. “While in Q1, we had 36 entities each reporting only 16 KPIs, in Q2, we had 36 entities and more than 3,000 KPIs to measure, and more types of reports to produce,” says Alameri. We could create the reports in just two weeks—compared to three weeks the first time round.”
Management Efficiency Improves Across All Government Departments
The BI system has set new standards of efficiency in performance management at all levels of government. Entities monitor their progress using scorecards in Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. Department heads can generate reports themselves for monitoring each team’s work and prepare an action plan to enhance or remedy their performance.
For the first time, the UAE Cabinet can manage the ministries and authorities in the same way that a board of directors administers a privately owned company. Reports submitted to the PMO clearly show the best and worst performing entities, percentage of projects completed, and the status of the overarching government strategy.
“The features of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 are proving highly effective in helping us improve public administration,” says Alameri. “There’s complete transparency of each ministry mandate and people responsible for the strategic objectives, as well as consistency of information at all levels. This fosters a culture of institutional decision making and increases accountability within the organisation. As a result, we now take appropriate, timely decisions.”
Scalable, Reliable Technology Leads to Cost Efficiency
“Even though we need to be as efficient as a private enterprise, we’re a not-for-profit organisation and have to spend money judiciously. Only Microsoft technologies could help us be so cost effective, and I’m sure we will get return on our investment in a very short period.”
Team Work Helps Deliver Results and Establish a Strong Relationship
The PMO feels that the efficient government teams as well as Microsoft were key to ensuring the success of this project. They both devoted their best talents and resources to work, support, and commit to prompt delivery.
Mona Kazim says: “We had the goals, objectives, and KPIs ready for each entity, along with a well defined business concept, which gave us a head start. From there on, it was Microsoft consultants who drove the project. They showed their commitment from day one and worked round the clock to ensure that the project was delivered on time.
“At every stage, our trust in the quality and performance of Microsoft technologies was reinforced, and, now, we have developed a long-lasting business relationship.”
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