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IPA revises review of HMRC’s £300m datacentre migration

Infrastructure and Project Authority’s annual report ranks HMRC’s £300m datacentre migration as “unachievable”, but – ahead of publication – it appears the organisation has had a change of heart

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has secured an improved rating for its £300m datacentre migration programme from a government watchdog that this month published a report stating the project was unlikely to succeed, Computer Weekly has learned.

The UK government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which oversees the delivery of new railways, schools housing and IT transformation projects, published its 2021/2022 report on 20 July 2022.

The 80-page document provides an update and insight into the status of large-scale programmes that are listed under the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP), with each project graded using a “Red, Amber and Green” (RAG) traffic light-style system to indicate how likely they are to succeed.

For example, projects that are graded “Green” are ones that are likely to be delivered successfully on time, within budget, to a high standard and have no major issues that are likely to threaten delivery.

At the other end of the scale are “Red” projects that present with major scheduling, budgetary and quality control issues that appear to be unmanageable or unresolvable, meaning a successful project delivery is unachievable.

HMRC’s ongoing datacentre migration programme, known as Securing Our Technical Future (SOTF), is among the projects listed on the IPA’s GMPP, and, in its report, its status is listed as moving from “Amber”, which means “successful delivery of the project is in doubt”, to “Red” over the course of the past 12 months.

The datacentre migration portion of the five-year project was originally scheduled for completion in June 2022, and centres on the decommissioning or migration of servers and services hosted in three HMRC datacentres to either the public cloud or the government’s Crown Hosting colocation facility.

Project approval

The project was officially given approval to proceed by HMRC CEO Jim Harra in February 2020, and in late January 2022 it emerged that IBM had secured an £11m contract to assist the department with exiting three datacentres operated on its behalf by Fujitsu.

According to the IPA report and its accompanying documentation, around 55% of the services involved in the move have either been retired or migrated so far, but the 244 services that still require attention are a source of concern for the Authority.

“Examination has uncovered that the remaining services, associated enablement and decommissioning work are more complex, expensive and time-consuming than previously thought,” the IPA’s assessment stated.

As a result, the status of the project had been changed from Amber to Red, according to the report, while the accompanying documentation states the project is in the process of being reviewed, with revised costings and a new completion date.

The project has been subject to a “number of pauses” owing to the UK’s extrication from the European Union, the documentation stated, that have affected its completion.

“While the baseline whole life costs remain at £312.06m, the programme business case is currently being updated, which will increase the whole life costs for various reasons, including increased complexities, [new] datacentre requirements and additional scope,” the documentation added.

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However, while the IPA’s report states the project is classified as Red, Computer Weekly has learned that HMRC has successfully had the SOTF reclassified as Amber.

In a statement, a spokesperson for HMRC said: “Moving services to public cloud and Crown Hosting is helping us transform how we operate, enabling us to build and run more resilient services, update them easily where we need to, and scale up quickly at peak times of the year,” the statement read.

“We always plan any changes to our IT estate thoroughly and, although this is a highly complex project, we are confident in the migration plans we now have in place.”

These plans include a revised finish date for the project, which is now due to conclude in December 2023, and a rejigged business plan for it.

“In view of this progress made, the RAG rating has now improved from Red to Amber, which was confirmed by an IPA Gate 0 review conducted in early May 2022,” the spokesperson added.

Computer Weekly contacted the IPA for confirmation on this change, but the authority declined to comment.

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