by Mark Chillingworth

CIO Profile: HMRC’s Mark Hall on making tax collecting more responsive

May 03, 20114 mins
GovernmentIT LeadershipIT Strategy

See also: CIO Profile: HMRC’s Mark Hall on job-sharing CIO Profile: HMRC’s Mark Hall on IT rationalisation

HM Revenue & Customsdeputy CIO Mark Hall is undergoing a root and branch overhaul of the organisation’s IT systems. Much of it involves streamlining, but business processes have also been addressed.

HMRC has introduced consumption pricing models so that every item of spend by IT can be allocated to every individual that works for the department.

“That has started to identify how business processes can be changed. People were very keen. The more data that we make available to people the better choices they will make. We have already had large electricity savings,” says Hall.

The renegotiations have included a new PC estate and the removal of 10,000 PCs that were not being fully used. 26,000 new PCs have been installed and a further 25,000 are about to be rolled out. Hall’s team is also rolling out voice over IP (VOIP) across HMRC, which he believes will have a significant cost impact. New management software has also been integrated to speed up the delivery of applications like Office and at the same time monitor application usage so that they can be turned off if not in use.

This swathe of changes is aimed at making HMRC a more responsive organisation to the public it taxes and serves. Real-time information systems are being developed to ensure that HMRC receives information as soon as a taxpayer receives a deduction.

“If we get the information immediately it reduces the burden on the employer, so it cuts government red tape and increases collection rates,” Hall says of two directives the government has highlighted. This immediate information will benefit others in Whitehall as well, with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) receiving the data for use in its universal credits scheme recently announced by the Coalition. Work begins on real-time information in April 2012 and the project will be completed by October 2013.

Hall sees the real time project as an­other sign of the continuing shared ser­vices and collaborative nature of Whitehall that he feels already exists.

“We are working far more collaboratively with other parts of the government. The main Government Gateway, the access point for government services – along with DWP we were instrumental in pulling that together.

“13 Machines is a consolidation and transformation project. These are the tech­nologies for going forwards and they are as agile as possible, so we can implement policy changes as quickly as possible. We are trying to be far more agile with the architecture. They will serve us well for a very long time,” Hall says confidently.

Critical thought “The scale and criticality of the job that we do appealed. Utilities are critical. I came into the civil service with a lot of preconceptions, all of which are wrong,” Hall says of his switch to the public sector in 2007.

“The people here are more committed, they have a very big public service culture. The quality improvement ethic is very strong.”

Hall cites the scrutiny that HMRC exists under and reacts to — there were two press handlers in the room for our interview, for example — is the most significant difference, but adds that it “drives a challenge to how you think and behave”.

As for himself and the IT team, they were willing to give up extra time to CIO for the interview, despite the central PR team wanting to curtail our meeting.

Hall spent the majority of his career in the utilities sector with PowerGen, E.On and then Severn Trent Water before moving to HMRC. His background, although dominated by a career in IT, is actually in finance and HR and he’s a chartered HR professional.

“The people engagement is as important as the technology,” he says of the lessons he’s learnt from both spheres. Although a lot of IT professionals don’t like to say it, for Hall, he says that metaphorically keeping the light on is what he likes, whether it is at a utility firm or keeping the government operating.