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HMRC’s automation is ‘years ahead of the rest of the Government’

For over a year now, HMRC has been automating its legacy processes to improve its customer service and remove time-consuming manual tasks from its staff. The work it has undertaken to set up its Automation Delivery Centre (ADC) helped it to win IT Project Team of the Year at last year’s UK IT Awards.

When we say robotics, you might picture a factory production line – or Terminator. Neither make much sense for HMRC (although…maybe if you’re late with a tax return). Instead, the organisation is working with chatbots and similar services designed to take staff away from time-intensive clerical roles and place them in more rewarding work.

James Merrick-Potter, head of robotic automation at the Cabinet Office, said that HMRC is “leading the way for Government in using RPA [robotic process automation] to deliver real savings and service improvements… Their model is being mirrored by Cabinet Office to accelerate the use of RPA across government.”

He added that HMRC is “at least two to three years ahead of the rest of Government” when it comes to robotics.

The ADC has automated many tasks throughout HMRC, delivering 10 million robotic transactions at the time of writing. Solutions include dashboards that automatically open relevant case files for contact centre advisers to answer customer queries (processing time has been reduced by ‘up to 40 per cent’), and end-to-end processing of first time employer registrations (which has lowered costs by 80 per cent).

The public sector is notorious for its momentum and resistance to change; but HMRC says that employees have embraced automation, rather than fearing for their jobs: the ADC has received more than 300 suggestions for tasks that could be automated. To meet growing demand, users can now take licences to build their own solutions using ADC governance and processes. “We’re not seen as the enemy but as a team to work with”, we were told.

By the end of 2017, more than 10,300 staff were using automated tasks, and HMRC had moved 350 employees out of clerical roles and into customer-facing positions.

The ADC has more than 80 projects in the pipeline for 2018. They include the automatic sorting and filing of post, which currently employs about 100 people; automated debt installment arrangements; and identification of high-risk taxpayers, by using robots to gather data on these individuals.

“Leading the way in Government robotics, Cabinet Office recognises our approach as best practice,” said HMRC. “Other government departments visit to learn from our experience and we have arranged licences for DWP and others to do proof-of-concept projects.”

HMRC was a winner at last year’s UK IT Awards, which are now open for entries. With 29 categories covering everything from personal achievements to company-wide excellence, you are sure to find an area that suits. Enter now!

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