CIO interview: Mark Hall, HMRC CIO

Mark Hall took the reins from HMRC’s larger-than-life former CIO Phil Pavitt at the end of last year. He talks about plans to be fully digital

Mark Hall took over from the HMRC’s larger-than-life former CIO Phil Pavitt at the end of last year, prior to that he’d been working as deputy for two years.

“Working with Phil Pavitt was the best possible apprenticeship anyone could have. As deputy CIO I was running the day-to-day IT,” he says.

“He’s left a strong IT environment foundation. He did a lot of work to fix IT and move things forward. Now I am working around the business strategy towards where we are going.”

“I want to build on his legacy, while also recognising the world is changing. Even since Phil left the world’s moved on.”

Digital by default

One key area will be the move to an entirely digital business, he says. 

"We are starting to look to transforming to a fully digital business over the next five to seven years. This is the biggest transformation HMRC will go through."

Mark Hall, HMRC CIO

“We’re looking at how we can provide a better experience for the customer. We are increasingly looking to [move to being able] to interact [with the public] in one place.”

He says the strategy is about aligning IT to the business through a move to digital. “We are making a big transition in terms of how we are thinking about HMRC as a digital business. At the moment we have 250 services online. The next stage is to have an end-to-end digital business. We still have a large amount of paper, for example.”

One move is to create a portal for businesses called ‘My Tax’ “We have self-assessment, but the move is to turn completely paperless,” he says.

Digital will provide a better overview of the customer, and where they are in the tax process – providing better information for the customer and allowing HMRC to see who is bending and breaking the rules, he says.

“Historically we’ve taken a waterfall approach to agile development. We are working closely with the Government Digital Service (GDS) about the use of different suppliers and ways of working.”

“The world of digital brings the IT and business together and is a key driver for that ‘one conversation’ [rather than them sitting in silos].”

Migrating from legacy

HMRC is undergoing a big decommissioning programme over the next three years, as part of moves to re-balance the department’s IT ahead of its Aspire contract with Capgemini expiring in 2017.

“We are working around sourcing, with Aspire due to end in 2017, Phil had already done a lot to introduce competition. My piece is to work toward 2017, how do we build capability internally, commercial, business analysis, digital capability, agile?” The new model will involve a mixed economy, rather than one big contract, he says.

“As part of our decommissioning, we want to transform the infrastructure.” 

The plan will see the department switch as much of its legacy off as possible, and consolidate much of its existing infrastructure.  “We will look at re-platforming to newer technology.” The move will include more virtualisation, he says.

A big benefit of the consolidation programme will be cost savings, he says. The department will take out around £10m per year with this approach.

Is a greater move to the G-Cloud part of the plan? “G-Cloud is something I can’t speak highly enough about.”  He says the department is already doing a lot with file and print storage through work with G-cloud company Skyscape, moving it’s storage in each of its offices to the cloud.

As companies are increasingly producing more mature software-as-a-service offerings that could be used by HMRC, he says the department will be looking to use more applications through the G-Cloud.

“We are moving away from legacy, heavy-lifting. We are looking at collaboration," he says. “Through consolidation, you make things easier for users. If you can streamline things you can make it a richer experience.  “We are looking at the front end and how that is developed with the user in mind.

HMRC is also looking at how it can use behavioural analytics for compliance and greater customer insight.

The department's risk and intelligence IT system, handles around one billion items of data and is one of the key systems the department is looking to enhance. Connect will allow a lot more analytics to move upstream to process, looking at the transformation in real-time and checking fraud and error, he says. The programme will see a major delivery in October.

Leadership structures

Cabinet Office chief operating officer Stephen Kelly is keen to elevate the function of the CTO  across government, and is reported to view the CIO as a less important in the transformational IT agenda. Hall says the role of CTO within HMRC is not centralised, with the role split between several functions.

But with an increasing emphasis being placed on the CTO, where does he see the role of the CIO in future? “I’m very comfortable with the emerging model, I can understand and support the agenda.” 

He believes the role of CIO is a key business-facing function.

“The CIO’s core role is to bridge business activity and IT.”


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