Istiqdam.sa — A Centralised Platform for Government Labor Services
P2H was the reliable tech partner behind the development of a robust platform for accessing labor-related government services.
- Platform Name Istiqdam.sa
- Client Takamol Holding
Government, semi-government, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations
Improving the ease of doing business is a key goal set by Vision 2030 — the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s blueprint for fulfilling the country’s potential in all major spheres. It’s hard to imagine achieving this goal without giving businesses advanced digital tools.
The client, Takamol Holding, asked P2H to develop a comprehensive platform that would automate the services of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) related to private business, employee management (for both Saudis and expatriates), and entrepreneurship.
In response, P2H worked with Takamol to design and develop Istiqdam, a platform which is revolutionizing business services in the KSA by eliminating paper-based government services and, ultimately, making it easier to do business in the Kingdom.
The Istiqdam platform brings together and centralizes access to different government e-services for business. As company managers or admins, Istiqdam platform users can access state services in three main categories:
A limited time for MVP development
In software development, an MVP is an excellent way to save time and money that would otherwise be spent on ideas irrelevant to project goals. However, developing an MVP for a complex government platform that has to support multiple services is no easy task.
We had just two months to develop an MVP, so we had to think carefully about what would make up the platform’s core look and feel and test the client’s ideas for what features the system should offer.
Shifting priorities and changing requirements
As P2H well knows, government and semi-government projects have typical challenges that can’t be ignored. Siloed strategy and decision-making, a risk-averse culture, and changing priorities are among the biggest hurdles to scaling country services digitally.
P2H’s task was to create a platform that struck a balance between Takamol’s business goals, the MHRSD’s roadmap for business services development, and the needs of its end users — actual consumers of government services.
The need for data standardization
Breaking down data silos is a key challenge of digital transformation in the government sector. Before we began digitizing business services for Takamol, government service users had to go through a time-consuming combination of analog and paper-based procedures.
In particular, a lack of data standardization meant that P2H had to address the following issues:
- Spread of data;
- Data duplication;
- Data inconsistency.
A lack of representative data
The use of personally identifiable information from state registers in test data is strictly forbidden by the KSA government legislation. As a result, we had no readily available production data for testing purposes. This particularly affected load and performance testing, which required adequate volumes of representative data to obtain valid results.
To address this challenge, we had to develop a test strategy that would use an effective set of data generation techniques.
We’ve engaged the following specialists on this ongoing project:
11 Software Engineers
2 Solution Architects
5 QA Engineers
1 DevOps Engineer
1 UI/UX Designer
2 Business Analysts
2 Support Engineers
2 Scrum Masters
Monitoring, observation and tracing:
to change mode
A well-thought-out project strategy
The client was already pleased with the results of another P2H project which digitized access to the KSA’S labor-related public services. They asked us to use the same approach for MVP development, namely:
- Preparing an impressive MVP to get the project roadmap approved by the Ministry;
- Building a strong and scalable foundation for the development of new services based on the solid architecture of the labor sector services platform.
In less than two months, we developed an MVP that allowed our client to validate the Istiqdam platform concept and get approval for its development roadmap.
As soon as the MVP was approved, the P2H team proceeded with core platform development. We ensured a smooth user experience and easy access through:
- Effective UI/UX design. We managed to speed up bureaucratic business operations with meaningful user-based design. P2H’s design team carried out all UI/UX work, from concept to implementation.
- An easy login and registration process. We developed a single sign-on (SSO) solution to provide users with a simple, secure way to sign in to all the platform’s services.
- An easy-to-use dashboard. After login, the system directs the user to the platform’s dashboard. This information about the beneficiary’s company — number of employees, licenses, work permits, visas, payments, contact information, and more.
- A comprehensive workspace. A workspace allows users with more than one registered company to manage procedures. They can track and manage company data and paperwork, such as certificates, licenses, and work permits for each of their companies. The workspace also has features for managing company employees.
After implementing core functionality, P2H extended the platform by adding new services related to private business development in the KSA, as well as recruitment and entrepreneurship.
A comprehensive range of platform services
The platform offers the following services:
This service allows recruitment organizations to add packages for hiring domestic labor. Some of the criteria these packages include:
- Migrant worker’s country of origin;
- Possible duration of occupational contract;
- Occupational contract cost;
- Occupation type;
- Contact data.
All the criteria are being systematically reviewed and approved. This facilitates the recruitment process and protects the legal rights of all parties involved in the migration of domestic workers.
This service lets recruitment organizations renew their licenses online, preventing the suspension of the services they render. Consequently, companies can continue practicing their licensed activity. It works this way: following the service request, MHRSD representatives verify and approve a renewal request. Shortly afterward, the system issues a license for a new term.
This service allows a company to submit an occupation correction request for employees based on the KSA’s Saudi Standard Classification of Occupations. This system organizes occupations in a hierarchical structure and according to type. The goal is to provide a common list of occupation names and standardize the presentation of labor market data.
Saudization certificate support
Saudization is a KSA policy mandating that Saudi companies and enterprises meet a stated quota of Saudi nationals in their workforce. The Istiqdam platform provides support for the company’s Saudization certificate, a required document for government tenders.
Work permit issue and renewal
The platform supports issuing and renewal of work permits for foreign workers in organizations that are approved by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. Work permits are an obligatory requirement for residency applications as provided by the Directorate General of Passports of Saudi Arabia.
An iterative development process
Given the specifics of the government niche and the platform’s main goal — to simplify access to government services for business — communicating each project development stage and ensuring we’re meeting the requirements of the Ministry has been critical to project success.
We also work closely with Takamol’s operations team to stay updated on end-user feedback, so we can quickly adjust the platform to meet business needs.
A more efficient alternative to already digitized services
A paper-based bureaucratic process isn’t the only stumbling block to the mass digitization of state services. Some services in the KSA have already shifted to the digital space, but their implementation needs improvement. For this reason, together with Takamol, we stayed true to Agile principles and gathered real user feedback. This lets us streamline already digitized services and attract even more users to a unified, personalized, and reliable platform.
The client asked us to use the best advanced technologies for the platform. Given the need to add and manage dozens of self-contained, instantly deployable business services, we decided to build the system using a microservice architecture.
As microservices constantly communicate with each other to gather data and send it to the client, we ensured communication through the gRPC framework. This prevented latency issues and allowed fast inter-service interactions. We chose RabbitMQ message broker to implement message queuing.
Test data generation
A vital step before platform release was verifying systems reliability, which was challenging as we had no genuine data to work with. Recreating different types of responses according to the client’s specifications on the MockServer took time, but it was the only solution given the strict personal data protection laws in the KSA. Despite a lack of access to platform logs and production, we managed to build a reliable testing system and processes.
Close interaction with the client
We’ve developed a close and efficient working relationship with Takamol through collaboration on this and other public-sector projects. A proactive approach helps us bypass lengthy decision-making, while our familiarity with advanced technologies lets us suggest the best ways to reach the client’s business goals.
Project managers and business analysts from the P2H team work hard to help Takamol’s project owners adapt development roadmaps to ever-changing government requirements. Moreover, our team is always ready to assist client POs with urgent issues and give time to backlog refinement with the development team.
P2H cooperates with Takamol at different management levels: C-level, VP level, and project management teams. We also visit the client’s on-site team to strengthen our cooperation and establish bonds at new business levels.
Customer journey tracking
P2H team-led initiative was to grant Takamol an opportunity to trace user activity on the platform. The number of inquiries to issue certificates, renew licenses, applications for change of occupation, and other platform-specific business intelligence data is all tracked and logged. Moreover, for better observability, we suggest using an open-source Grafana tool. Upon clients’ request, we can provide a visual report for any process initiated for each microservice, showing corresponding dependencies.
With the introduction of this unified platform, our client paved the way for:
Streamlined relations between businesses and government. For example, users requested occupation correction service more than 2,000 times during the first week of platform operation. This way, they managed to successfully change employee occupations according to the Saudi Standard Classification of Occupations.
Reduction of the time needed to process business applications.
Introduction of data monitoring and tracking at the government level.
Centralized access to services related to registering and running a company, managing employees, and business operations.
This project is ongoing. Existing services are being fine-tuned to end-user needs based on feedback. The platform will be enlarged and further developed in line with the KSA’s Vision 2030 framework. Together with Takamol, we plan to add more integration and synchronization with other country platforms to give citizens and expats even greater access to centralized digital services.
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