HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Mark Dearnley Lives In The Past

Mark Dearnley, CIO of HMRC, recently gave an interview to CIO which was rather revealing.

He joined from Vodafone (there's irony for you) in 2013, and described his role as "nothing short of transforming a centuries-old organisation into a digital, modern, real time business".

Errmmm, HMRC is not centuries old; it was formed by Broon in 2005!

Anyhoo, that little snafu aside, Dearnley acknowledges the challenge presented by legacy systems, a long-standing issue for HMRC IT chiefs. He says he would like to consolidate tax systems from over 100 to "one or two".

Yet he regards the platforms used by HMRC as being fine, and rejects the idea they are somehow "bad platforms".
"This nation has survived and brought in trillions of pounds worth of tax on these platforms."
Yes, but just because something once worked it may no longer be fit for purpose now; given that people's working patterns have changed (eg multiple sources of income).

In fact he appears to be enamoured with batch processing:
"Is real-time brilliant and batch terrible? 

That's the wrong question. 

There are things for which batch is fine. 

There are other things where you need real-time updates."
He intends to cobble together old and new:
"Some of that will use things that are new. Some of that will take advantage of some of the great things that have been developed over the years.

There's no 'oh it's not new so it must be bad' - there's actually 'if it's ideal for the role let's build on it'.
He is also of the view that he has more than other Whitehall departments:
"Most people underestimate how much talent we have within HMRC.

It would appear we actually have more than some other parts of government. 

I have thousands of civil servants. We already run all of the platforms that collect 40% of the UK's tax. And I've managed to create what I think is quite a fantastic leadership team."
He waxed lyrical about the new team in Newcastle, which has moved tax credits renewals online in just eight weeks in start to finish Dearnley claims.
"We set up a Scrum team and said: 'Go and see what you can do, you've got eight weeks'. They built a complete tax credits renewals service in eight weeks from start to finish, and we integrated it in real time to all the back-end systems.

That went live in eight weeks. We thought if it went really well, maybe 80,000 people would use it during renewals – 410,000 people used it. I think we had about a 94% customer satisfaction rate, which is absolutely phenomenal."
Hmm, what say you loyal readers?

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. He's a deluded fool, watch him gone within 3 years , just like Phil Pavitt before him, when the going gets hot, watch them run, maybe Phil can put in a good wod for him at Specsavers.

    1. Shuda gone to specsavers. turning a blind eye to all the crap within HMRC
      Blinkers on, myopia, cataracts, short sighted, tunnel vision, cant see the wood for the trees. Well qualified to peddle the HMRC bull shit we're so accustomed to. Phil will put him right

  2. Perhaps he would like to let me have his thoughts on caseflow2. IT not fit for purpose. Why do I have spend what seems like hours inputting data into a system to be told that HMRC cannot accept the reliability of the data, so please keep a spreadsheet. Then you get lost in the system, it's truly awful. What a waste of money and resource. Perhaps senior management would like to see how much time is wasted by staff on this useless piece of IT.

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  3. if the gene pool in HMRC is equal to or better than the rest of government departments as our friend Dearnley says, we truly are in deeper shit than we all thought!

  4. Dearnley is a probably being economical with the actualit√© like so many members of HMRC’s Ex Com.

    The constant shouting of the word 'Digital' to describe their IT strategy should immediately ring alarm bells since by their very nature all the Departments computers have been digital (ie using binary compiled code) since the date the Inland Revenue bought their very first LEO machine second hand from Joe Lyons in the 1960s. As a consequence the Revenue could claim to have digitised most of its work decades ago. It would be nice to see such obvious bullshit occasionally challenged at places like PAC

    More seriously, while Dearnley frequently likes to boast about his speedy roll
    out of Windows 7 to all HMRC desktops he negelects to mention that in the process it has broken loads of applications, created many problems and generated thousands of lost man hours of work

    With regard to the problem of 'legacy' systems Dearnley seems to fail to understand or deliberately ignores the basic issue that all IT applications fall into that category the moment they hit the live metal and start running in anger. It does not matter whether they are 5 minutes old or 5 years old they all have to be maintained and they all face the issue that the software and hardware on which they were designed and run is sooner or later out of date. Moreover, political events and changes to legislation will mean the functionality is going to have to be constantly updated and enhanced.

    It is certainly true that HMRC over the years has wound up with a huge IT estate running a wide range of different platforms, operating systems and applications. However, the people largely responsible for that situation are not the Revenues IT suppliers but the Board of HMRC itself, including individual like Dearnley and Pavitt who have constantly changed the core IT strategy. For example, a few years ago the mantra coming out of Ex Com was that HMRC was to buy not build its software so they invested massively in various proprietary COTS packages, many of which were costly and often incompatible with the Revenues needs so had to be expensively customised. Now the pendulum has swung completely the opposite way and HMRC now are betting the whole shooting match on Open Source systems and bespoke applications written in house. That punt may come off but it is a very high risk strategy particularly as much of the software being used is largely untried and unproven for running major government systems and the in house HMRC 'Digital' Teams in Newcastle and elsewhere have no experience of delivering and supporting systems on that scale. In addition, there is the very real worry that Dearnley appears to be funding his ambitions by stripping out investment in maintaining and supporting the existing legacy estate which still runs 99% of HMRC systems. If his grand schemes come to nothing then the Revenue could end up with the worst of all worlds with new systems not fit for purpose and old applications needing costly large scale upgrades to keep them running.

    The suspicion is that Dearnley who spent a mere three years at Vodafone before cutting and running to HMRC in 2013 will do exactly the same thing to the Revenue when his contract expires in 2016. Unfortunately, by then HMRC may find its IT has been well and truly scuppered.

    1. You've just spoken more sense in your comment than I've heard from HMRC all year!