After a Brexit-related hiatus, HMRC technology transformation plans have creaked back into action with executive recruitment activity, Windows upgrades and a consultancy deal to plan the department’s continuing cloud migration.
The “Securing Our Technical Future” project is one of 22 separate transformation initiatives designed to rationalise HMRC’s IT infrastructure and migrate services from its old outsourced Aspire data centres to HMRC-controlled cloud platforms hosted on Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Crown Hosting, a partnership with private provider Ark Data Centres.
Breaking expensive, mainframe-based services into smaller, more flexible cloud contracts would give the department more scope to improve its systems and widen its network of suppliers to smaller businesses, HMRC said at the time.
The migration suffered a temporary hiccup in when HMRC’s transformation projects were reprioritised to make way for Brexit preparations in 2018.
During the past few months, however, signs of activity have picked up with adverts in the trade press for senior IT posts to lead the 30+ team overseeing the department’s migration to cloud platforms.
HMRC has shifted self assessment processing and nearly 100m taxpayer records to a virtualised cloud system, while this year’s annual report and accounts noted progress on other projects including Customs Declaration Service system, Universal Credit and Making Tax Digital, which was the main justification for £1.3m allocated in the 2015 spending review to turn HMRC into “one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world”.
Civil Service World reported recently that Belfast consultancy Kainos has been appointed to help “define HMRC’s approach and strategy… for [the] move to cloud [and] to build and seed a testing plan strategy”.
Since January, meanwhile, HMRC has spent £111.8m on software upgrades to deploy Microsoft’s Office 365 Enterprise among its teams. As well as the online versions of Office tools, the licences include Skype for Business and Power BI analytics.
Overseeing this renewed burst of transformation activity and expenditure is chief digital and information officer Jacky Wright, who was seconded to HMRC from Microsoft in 2017, not long after the tax department ended its 10-year outsourcing contract with the Aspire consortium. She has not been involved in any of the negotiations with Microsoft, HMRC advised.
In the application pack for the tech executive roles, Wright explained, “We have a massive challenge: we need to bring in more tax, reduce costs and improve the experience for customers. To do this, we’re using smart data analysis and innovative IT systems to ensure that customers get their tax affairs right from the outset – and we’re radically improving the technology we use to do our work.”