Members of the IRM Doha team pose for a photo, Feb. 6. Standing, from left: Sana Al Batayneh, Ahmad Azizi, Vincent Fernandez, Nashwa Basheer, Hakim Addeche, Moaad Badawi, Abdel Fatah Suliman, Rami Zeitawi, and James Gallup. Seated from left: Maha Maarouf, and Chickelle Woody. Photo by Wilson Umeh

By Chickelle Woody

The FIFA Men’s World Cup is one of the world’s premier sporting events, and the 2022 tournament in Qatar continued that tradition. In preparation for the event, Embassy Doha leveraged innovation and the latest Department of State technology to ensure seamless support to American citizens, and enhanced security coordination with their Qatari partners. 

Moaad Badawi, IRM software developer, stands before screens showing visual representations of key data, Oct. 29, 2022. Photo by Chickelle Woody

The Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) team at Embassy Doha developed three new tools to advance these goals. The first was a new call center platform that exploited untapped capabilities of Microsoft Teams to assist the mission with the surge of American citizens expected to contact the embassy for assistance. Second, using innovative techniques, the embassy developed a sophisticated video conferencing capability to enhance its hybrid FIFA World Cup preparation meetings. Third, due to a high volume of official visitors, Embassy Doha’s IRM office developed a comprehensive arrival/departure tracking application.

During the World Cup prep meetings, IRM Doha transformed the look of hybrid meetings to enhance the conference interaction experience, introducing video software created by Switcher to enhance the experience for remote participants. The team turned three iPhones into streaming cameras and conveniently placed them on tripods in front of the podium, and other areas of the room, to mimic a professional newscast quality presentation. Post used Switcher software to track who was speaking and ensured the video moved and zoomed to that speaker. Visually knowing which participants were speaking greatly improved the communication, collaboration, and teamwork at the highly prioritized FIFA World Cup events.

Providing excellent customer service was challenging during the World Cup. With assistance from the Telecommunications, Wireless, and Data (TWD) team in Washington, IRM Doha implemented a new initiative, a Microsoft Teams hotline call queue, to replace the old embassy switchboard console. The call queue provided trained personnel to answer and direct calls at all hours of the day. The operators received and answered calls directly from the Teams client using OpenNet workstations or GO desktop laptops and then redirected calls to the appropriate people in the Mission or the United States who could assist them. The call queues provided menu prompts where callers could stay on hold or leave a voicemail. When leaving a voicemail, the call queue delivered an automated text-to-speech message and even uploaded a digital audio voicemail, leaving no callers unassisted—even if they could not stay on the line for long. 

An image of the Switcher app that connects three iPhone cameras together. Image by Chickelle Woody
An image of the Switcher app that connects three iPhone cameras together. Image by Chickelle Woody

To provide 24/7 support, IRM Doha tasked seven locally employed (LE) staff and hired an additional seven LE staff family members. With a comprehensive work schedule, mission personnel worked from the embassy, their residences in Qatar, and Canada to assist callers requiring urgent and emergency services. To equip operators with the skills and knowledge to manage the volume of calls, IRM Doha trained them to use the new Teams call queue. In coordination with the American Citizen Services (ACS) team, IRM Doha created a workflow in the distribution of incoming calls to multiple sections, such as Overseas Customer Service, ACS, chief of mission personnel, or to the duty officer. 

The scheduling increased mobility and supported a flexible work environment, where operators worked from home. Transferring calls using the call queue was faster, cutting down on hold times and the number of phone calls needed to resolve issues. This innovative call queue had never been used at a mission and was thoroughly tested in Qatar to handle the overwhelming surge of callers. 

“IRM did a fantastic job planning for the World Cup and was continually responsive to Consular’s needs. Communication is key to preparing for a major event,” said American Citizen Services Chief Phil Starkweather. “IRM’s initiatives ensured individuals needing assistance could promptly reach us. We couldn’t have successfully supported American citizens without IRM.”

Any major sporting event, such as the FIFA World Cup, presents certain risks to the safety and security of attendees. Embassy Doha expected hundreds of U.S. government employees arriving in Qatar to assist the mission during the FIFA World Cup event. In case of an actual emergency, the IRM team had to achieve the most rapid and reliable accountability response possible. Accountability meant knowing exactly who was on the premises—at the embassy or in a stadium, during the emergency. 

IRM personnel work on the Switcher video, March 2. From left: Vincent Fernandez, Mastula Kyongo, and Ahmad Azizi. Photo by Chickelle Woody
IRM personnel work on the Switcher video, March 2. From left: Vincent Fernandez, Mastula Kyongo, and Ahmad Azizi. Photo by Chickelle Woody

To aid the Mission, IRM Doha carefully developed a more proactive and accurate system for accountability and to respond effectively in case of emergency. They used Department-approved software, Power Apps, and Microsoft Power BI, to create an accountability application. The application was accessible on OpenNet workstations and government-issued mobile phones. 

The application delivered interrelated key features to optimize rescue planning in the event of an emergency. The lodging list provided information on the employee’s hotel and lodging reservation with visual graphs. The graphs enabled Regional Security officers (RSO) to determine where personnel were located with room-level precision. Should an incident occur, RSO could quickly identify which officers were in the area and dispatch security officers for rapid response.

 “During the FIFA World Cup, Mission Doha experienced an increase in activity. On several occasions embassy personnel noticed plumes of smoke which were later determined to be fires. RSO greatly benefited from the app because we could quickly track down locations of embassy personnel in respect to the reported fires.” said Regional Security Officer Wilbert Vaughn who appreciated the effort of the IRM team. 

The last known location list provided information on the personnel’s whereabouts, such as the embassy or World Cup stadium locations. The application featured a reporting functionality that enabled  Mission officials to pinpoint the last known location of possible missing personnel, which would dramatically improve rescue planning and management efforts. When personnel entered and departed Qatar, the departure and arrival list provided a visual graph, displaying real-time information relating to the headcount of personnel onsite at any given time. 

The World Cup provided a unique opportunity for IRM Doha to support Embassy Doha’s diplomatic efforts using the latest technology. 

Chickelle Woody is the deputy information management officer at Embassy Doha. 

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