Friday 28 September 2012

HMRC's Head In The Clouds

HMRC have announced that it will be moving data currently stored in local offices to G-Cloud Services (a cloud based storage system), between now and Spring 2013.

A somewhat "challenging" timeframe I would have thought!

The contract has been signed with Skyscape Cloud Services.

As per the company website:
"The Skyscape Cloud Alliance partners; QinetiQ ,VMware, Cisco, EMC, and Ark Continuity bring together an end to end cloud solution which is Skyscape. This Alliance also provides a collaborative resource which drives innovation and our technical product development programme.....
QinetiQ is a FTSE250 company and one of the top 10 largest UK employers of science and engineering graduates. QinetiQ is at the heart of Skyscape and uses its domain knowledge to provide technical advice to clients in the global aerospace, defence and security markets. QinetiQ’s unique position enables it to be a trusted partner to government organisations, predominantly in the UK and the US, including defence departments, intelligence services and security agencies, where its world leading cyber security capabilities raise awareness of and deliver solutions for hacking and malware."
As per Wikipedia:
"In 2007 the National Audit Office conducted an inquiry into the privatisation of Qinetiq to determine whether UK taxpayers got good value for money from the sale. The NAO inquiry looked at the following issues:
  • choice of privatisation strategy;
  • management of the process (the split of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency into two, the sale to Carlyle and the flotation);
  • costs incurred and the proceeds achieved; and,
  • whether the deal met its objectives.
In November 2007, the NAO reported that taxpayers could have gained "tens of millions" more and was critical of the incentive scheme given to Qinetiq managers, the 10 most senior of whom gained £107.5m on a total investment of £540,000 in the company's shares. The return of 19,990% on their investment was described as "excessive" by the NAO. The role of Qinetiq's management in negotiating terms with the Carlyle Group, while the private equity company was bidding for the business, was also criticised by the NAO. Carlyle bought a third of the business for £42m which grew in value to £372m in less than four years."
Here is the HMRC press release in full:
"HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has become the first Government department to sign a contract for the delivery of G-Cloud Services over the Public Services Network.

The department has signed a contract with Skyscape Cloud Services for centralised data storage in the G-Cloud. Moving to cloud storage will provide cheaper, more secure and greener data storage for HMRC. It will also enable the department to move forward with its deployment of the Government End User Device Strategy, designed to increase the efficiency of the public sector and improve front-line services.

The contract was awarded via the UK Government G-Cloud framework, which enables the rapid sourcing and deployment of secure, low-cost utility services to the UK public sector. This is the first major service contract to be awarded via the G-Cloud by an organisation as large as HMRC.

For HMRC the change will mean moving data currently stored in local offices to cloud storage between Autumn 2012 and early Spring 2013. This will be the first deployment of G-Cloud services over the Public Service Network, established to improve Government communication links and cut costs.

HMRC's Chief Information Officer, Phil Pavitt, said:

“This change will save over £1 million a year in running costs and will increase reliability and security of HMRC’s internal IT services. The Skyscape contract is a major step for HMRC in moving away from traditional ways of working with large service providers. And it’s a great example of how we’re exploring smarter, more innovative solutions that make life simpler for us and help us provide a better deal for our customers.”

Notes for editors

1. For more about the G-Cloud programme -"
As Barry Murphy, technology partner at PwC, warns in TechWeek:
Getting the technology in place is just the first leg of the process.  The biggest challenge is the behavioural change that needs to follow.

Too often the failure of new systems is blamed on the technology when more often it’s because people haven’t adapted to them.”
We shall see!

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  1. Less than 60 sec.s research on the internet gives you...

    "One of the companies that operates in this manner is the Carlyle Group."

    On their payroll are people like : George Bush (Sr.), James Baker III and old premier John Major."

    Just to expand a wee bit, internet research, reading some good books etc. will provide the connection between GB Snr and the Bin Laden family - oil.

    What's this got to do with HMRC?
    Have not got a fecking clue old boy!


  2. Be afraid, be very afraid

    Join the dots on this one and see the connections!

    The Molestrangler

  3. I've wondered a few times what this 'cloud computing' is all about, so I took a quick peek at the Wikipedia article on it. I see this:

    "End users access cloud-based applications through a web browser or a light-weight desktop or mobile app while the business software and user's data are stored on servers at a remote location."

    Oh, boy! Access through a web browser? HMRC are still using IE*6*, ffs! Users can't even access the BBC News site or Google without the bloody browser crashing.

    As for the Dept's own systems, the same problems users have had over the last five years or so will continue; services being unavailable, crashing, timing out or - most frequently - being so bloody slow that you forget what you wanted to do with the next page long before you get it to open.

    The reason? Cheapskatery. So many HMRC applications are now run via browsers, but the infrastructure of both comms and back-end has never been beefed up to match.

    (This is also the reason why most new HMRC systems in recent years have been badly implemented; they think that if they trial it in two medium-sized offices then it'll work rolled out to everyone. They forget the whole concept of 'scaling').

    As for all data being stored on remote servers, the closure of so many offices and the infestation of 'distance management' means that this is already happening to some degree, but I can't wait to see the looks on the faces of the whiteboard fanatics when their precious management stats can't be accessed because the server storing it is unreachable!

    Rapidly approaching fustercluck, anyone?

  4. Oh, and I forgot: if the software is also on a remote server rather than on the desktop/notebook and the lack of capacity or resilience in the network remains much the same, then I can see hilarity ensuing. We have some software like that already, and it's a standing joke that if a member of staff comes up to you - because accesses are limited - and asks you to check something on it for them, you tell them to go and make a cup of tea and a sandwich, because that's how long the program takes to open.

    Imagine what will happen when *all* business appplications are housed in the same way, and need to be accessed by tens of thousands of staff at the same time!

  5. HMRC & IT mix like oil and water.
    As for the staff being trained, capable, able and willing to undergo the input required for any new systems, forget it - CBT does not work with the mass of learning required.
    But then it is all heading for a privatised system of tax administration, for the top echelons at least.
    Why a 405 increase in senior management resignations - its bad even at the top!
    Perhaps HMRC could learn from the IT mistakes of the US IRS but somehow I doubt it!