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Adopt Agile Principles to Save Hundreds of Billions and Prevent

Waste of Money, Time, Energy!

Mission Impossible ?

“ Fitting Agile into HMRC is like putting a speed boat engine into an oil tanker: it
will make very little difference to the agility of the tanker and will result in the engine
burning out. “
Anonymous HMRC Employee

Guide by A-R Ciceu, London 2016

Cover by C. Young

Legal Disclaimer

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Anyone is free to copy, modify, publish, use, compile, sell, or
distribute this guide for any purpose, commercial or non-
commercial, and by any means.
In jurisdictions that recognize copyright laws, the author or
authors of this guide dedicate any and all copyright interest in
this guide to the public domain. We make this dedication for the
benefit of the public at large and to the detriment of our heirs
and successors. We intend this dedication to be an overt act of
relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights to
this guide under copyright law.

For more information, please refer to http://unlicense.org/

Given in Newcastle upon Tyne today the 21st of July 2016 by the
Author of this Guide, Mr A-R Ciceu, in the presence of two
To contact the author check with DISRUPTIVE – AGILE LTD,
using the address published at

Executive Summary

This Guide gives straight forward solutions to problems current throughout HMRC. The key word
of this guide is Efficiency: it shows straightforward ways of introducing efficiency at HMRC in
Customer Relations, Recruitment, Operations, Infrastructure, Digital and so on.

As an example, in 2014 the very first Online Tax Credits Renewals service created at HMRC took
only eight weeks of work from the start to becoming available to the public online. It worked! So, if
that was possible three years ago, then how come it is no longer the case? Currently HMRC online
services are often taking years to be delivered and, once produced, not necessarily fit-for-purpose.
[Incidentally, the Tax Credits Renewals service was later scrapped and rebuilt a couple of times,
each time more complicated and more expensive.]

Institutions of the size of HMRC can change only with constant proactive involvement at the very
top. Set out below are basic ideas of how change can be achieved.

 Hundreds of Billions of pounds can be saved by introducing efficiency, individual

responsibility and accountability!

 Before spending or building anything, it is necessary to first find out exactly what the Public
needs and requirements are.

 Open organizational culture is a proven method of efficiency which will re-establish public
trust in HMRC.

 Recruitment and Operations can not be efficient with underpaid and underskilled staff.

 Open communication based on transparency will bring efficiency and will make the public
help you.

 Eliminate costly practices.

 Become the most technologically advanced tax system in the world! The British Economy
will follow your Government initiative.

 Investing in Research and Development, in partnership with private sector and education
institutions, is the route to wealth creation.

Whatever one's role in Government, Civil Service or Private Sector, the suggestions outlined in this
Guide will make one's work more efficient and life easier. Enjoy reading it at least as much as I
enjoyed writing it!


page 6 Intro Why this Guide

page 8 Chapter I Client is King

page 13 Chapter II Towards a Responsible Culture

page 16 Chapter III You get what you pay for

page 21 Chapter IV Efficient Communication and HMRC

page 25 Chapter V Top of the Game

page 30 Chapter VI When and How to Eliminate Waste

page 33 Chapter VII A Time to Review

Why this Guide

This Guide is inspired by my - the author - experience of working at HMRC as an external IT

contractor. While still under legal obligation not to disclose official secrets and sensitive facts and
figures learned during that contract, I am making the following statement:

'This work represents my professional views and I assume full responsibility for the information
presented in this Guide and I give it as such for democratic transparency purposes! All facts and
figures presented here are already available in the public domain!'

A common thread of the chapters in this Guide is one of obtaining public services fit for purpose
and able to boost the economy rather than being a burden for tax payer. That can be accomplished
only by having efficient and competent employees: best value for money!

Each chapter contains no more than a dozen main Problem/Solution points. Each point is self
explanatory; each example of inefficiency is followed by my recommended solution. On occasions,
I detail the reasoning for the solution proposed.

A 'Civil Service' is meant both in theory and in practice to serve the public – the key is in the title!
Accordingly, the entire existence of the civil service is to be considered based on what the end
clients, that is the members of the public, want, need and require.

This guide is about reshaping HMRC by bringing agility and efficiency, coupled with modern
psychological tools, such as emotional intelligence enhancers, and providing straight forward ways
of achieving long term organizational stability. While some solutions appear radical the long term
achievable gain justifies them.

Positive progress in recent years is evidenced through the taxman going Digital and helping us deal
online with our taxes. For engaging in this path, credit should be given to those at HMRC. For
HMRC a stable future has to be Digital!

It is widely understood that changes in mentality are more difficult to achieve than technological
changes. Major change begins at the top in formulating policies. Implementation of the policies can
be effective only with robust systems. Both implementing the policies and systems can only work
successfully if the ideas and objectives of the policies, together with the implementation of the
systems of delivery, are clearly understood and bought into by the personnel required to work with

Becoming client oriented

Becoming client oriented comes, for HMRC, with multiple challenges and my objective has been to
analyse some of the main issues and offer solutions based on the reality and practicalities I have
encountered working in the private and public sectors in several countries over a period of two

Organizational Culture
Organization culture is the very backbone of efficiency. Open communication and collaboration are

efficiency boosters. Poor organizational Culture results in poor performance!

Recruitment and continuous professional training

Money-wise, the guide shows ways of reducing 'waste' and increasing efficiency both in the short
and long term. Competent professionals are never cheap and a Recruitment system which is ill
conceived will never provide a fit for purpose solution.

Technology should be a means of achieving efficiency and it should be the most modern possible.
HMRC is still anchored in outdated technologies. The modern public tax payer of today and of the
future will be constantly moving forward in its technological capability and will not wish to ever
fall back to using decades old technologies. This indicates the need of continuous professional
development for everyone involved in creating and sustaining relevant modern public services.
Becoming relevant and modern for HMRC will therefore involve:

 Disruptive technologies
 Hand held devices
 Wearable technologies
 Smart networks

Think how quickly science fiction has become science fact. It was only fifty years ago that Star
Trek first presented the idea of a mobile phone.

Currently I have observed that HMRC continues to create software tens, hundreds or thousands of
times more expensive than very similar software created in private sector. Additionally, there are
levels of management in charge of digital services with little to no understanding of Information
Technology or Computer sciences. To bridge the knowledge gap, HMRC is hiring specialist
contractors with the appropriate levels of current knowledge and forward thinking. Unfortunately
because of the level of “closed mentality” within HMRC, this professional advice that they have
paid to obtain, and which the private sector greatly benefits from, is largely ignored by those in

Finally, my main aim is geared towards steering HMRC away from such inefficient practices.

Chapter I Public is King

Those in power assume that increasing Tax is the main way of financing the seemingly endless
expenses in Public Services. As such, government is committing to taking loans from a variety of
institutions, based on future tax to be collected. The magnitude of these loans is indebting current
and future generation. On the one hand the government commits to taking loans based on future tax
– on the other hand according to figures published by the National Audit Office, HMRC could have
saved the national budget over £20bn in 2014/15.

As civil servants, HMRC employees should support UK citizens. However, the reality is that civil
servants only support the Government and the governments' aspirations. This is a culture that is an
institutional mentality within the civil service and none more that HMRC. Staff and management
have spent their whole careers supporting the government and they have lost track of the actual end
customers they should serve. At the same time, while claiming to reduce bureaucracy and to
drastically diminish the number of public employees and failing miserably, it seems to perform
rather poorly according to Lord Jones of Birmingham (2009) who states:
"Frankly the job could be done with half as many, it could be more productive, more efficient, it
could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer." !

At this point in time the very strategy of HMRC, interacting with the taxpayer, is based on
principles which are at least inefficient, if not detrimental. There is a much more lucrative way of
collecting taxes. By creating a horizontal dynamic and agile entity with up to date technological
tools, using far less public money and re-prioritizing expenses from a totally different perspective,
the result will be overall public efficiency.

The above has provided the background and the basis for the following suggestions.

1. HMRC staff, of any grade, has no individual accountability or liability towards the

Whatever error, mistake or malevolent action a permanent employee of HMRC may commit, there
would be no direct material/financial consequences for her/him. As a worse case scenario when a
complaint is proven, the effect on an individual employee is more likely to be merely a detrimental
performance report or they may be transferred to a different department.

The taxpayer must help by becoming involved all the way through the journey of public money
from collection to expenditure. This activity, from the tax paying public, would have the effect of
forcing HMRC to adopt the concepts of individual 'professional accountability' and 'professional
In other words, make sure that incompetent, careless or malevolent public employees pay for
damages caused by their poor decisions! That is to apply the same measure for all - if a member of
the public doesn't pay his tax then he is held liable by law - so it only makes sense that those
spending the collected tax money are liable for their actions. This should apply to any individual
employee of HMRC, whatever the rank.

2. There is no focus on end client!

Current practice at HMRC is for top management to make assumptions over what the tax payer
needs, wants and prefers. It is only after spending significant amounts of money, time and
resources, on the assumptions made, that user research then bother to consult with the public.

For example, during its first year of existence, we have seen an online digital service being used by
only a handful of members of the public. This digital service has a cost of millions of pounds to
develop and support. I have estimated that it would have been much cheaper to hire a civil servant
to personally deal over the year with these few users and solve their issues, alone!

The 'Change Framework Methodology' at HMRC, by establishing a set of 'Gates' through which a
project shall pass is placing User Research and User Testing (asking the public about their needs
and requirements) from Gate 5 onwards, by which time serious resources and money have already
been spent.

First, HMRC need to create filtering mechanisms which prevent spending on planning and
development of a service/product, until the 'proof of concept' has been established.

Members of the public should be involved in serious user research sessions. User research should
reflect the needs of the majority of taxpayers rather than the needs of just a few taxpayers, which is
what the current model does.

This objective can be achieved by having a centralized HMRC User Research Office to validate
and investigate each idea. The User Research Office would only then approve the idea if the
feedback from the public taxpayer justifies the need.

3. HMRC does not take advantage of the huge amount of precious information regarding
customer requests and customer needs held by its Call Centres.

Customer Service operators are the only ones in continuous contact with the members of the public.
To give you an idea of the volume of communications initiated by the members of the public we
quote the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mr David Gauke: “Each year HM Revenue and
Customs (HMRC) receives and responds to 50 million phone calls and 15 million letters from Self
Assessment and PAYE customers.” (http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-

Have those customer service operators contribute with their suggestions to the planning and
development of services. Encourage them to put forward their ideas and reward them. Then, as it
was their ideas, involve them in the development process!

This interaction should involve two way communications actively asking the public for suggestions
on how to improve HMRC’s overall performance. Once received, the suggestions should be
evaluated by the User Research Office and those that are viable should be taken on board and
implemented. In this way there will be a constant flow of up to date relevant information on which

HMRC can base its future digital service strategy.

4. The taxpayer has no idea how HMRC’s work is accomplished and this generates
reluctance to collaborate with the taxman!

To quote the National Audit Office: 'Although Government’s aim is to be transparent, it is not clear
it has the ability to be. Its ambition and ability to publish transparency information remains
hampered by weak information systems that mean that contract information, spend data and
performance information cannot easily be brought together.' - and HMRC is no exception ...

Involve the community in the process of developing more efficient ways to serve! Going Open
Source with HMRC software is a first step. Encourage members of the public to contribute to
services in ways which they find useful. Stop being paranoid about security: make clear for
everyone the rules of contributing and use their know-how. Again, reward the members of the
public for their time and efforts.

Organize open public events allowing permanent staff and members of the public to interact and to
exchange information. Let your employees from all levels represent you, not only the senior levels,
and do incorporate in your work suggestions from the public.

Stop showing to the public an artificial image of 'competent efficiency' and start telling the public
what your real 'business pains' are. Again, start taking on board the suggestions from the public.
Grow up and realize that it isn't a 'taxpayer against HMRC' conflict! It is rather a 'we are all in this,
together, so let's fix it!' ...

5. Huge amounts of time are spent by the public in trying to interact with HMRC by
phone, by email, by letters.

Average waiting time on calling HMRC is over 30 minutes!

Make it clear to the public which department does what! Increase the answering capacity of your
Call Centres by having all your desk staff answering calls and solving problems for the public.
Make publicly available the numbers of each department and team and encourage the public to call
the team which can solve its particular issue directly. Train, coach and mentor your permanent staff
in showing interest in the problems of the members of the public!

6. Almost half of taxpayers interacting with HMRC are unhappy about the experience,
according to HMRC itself!

Unhappy customers will call back or will complain until their issues will be solved. That causes
unnecessary waste of time and resources on both sides. Especially so when the matter ends in Court.

Monitor and test periodically your permanent staff in their capacity and ability to show empathy for
the problems of the callers! That is the only way of re-establishing trust amongst the members of the
public. Even if a problem is not solved during a call, at least the message passed over to the client is
that, 'we do care about you'.

Introduce 'mystery shoppers' and dispose of those permanent employees unwilling to learn and
apply the more efficient ways!

7. HMRC is seen as hiding how exactly it spends money!

Lack of transparency.

Actively inform the public about how the tax collected is spent! Ask the public to vet and suggest
better ways of using public money. Incorporate those suggestions in your objectives.

8. Online digital services are difficult to use!

After going through a more or less painful process of registering and being properly identified,
whether it be by Experian, or by Gov.UK directly, the member of the public wishing to clarify taxes
online, is met by a too complex and complicated network of interlaced services with a questionable
logical structure.

The services should be built to be the simplest possible. Conceive online digital services as micro-
services based on a highly intelligent and fully automated platform! The rule of thumb is that a
micro-service does one thing and one thing only - but it does it well.
Educate both your permanent staff and the public in the proper usage of new services!

9. Lack of unitary design of digital services!

Each online service has a different look being obviously developed by different teams following
different ideas and missing a unitary guidance.

Create a unique Design Office in charge with every single online front-end (what the end user gets
to see on his screen) digital service.

10. At every end of tax year all taxpayers have to sort their online taxes in the same month
and HMRC is buried in work!

Each end of tax year is creating a peak of activity at HMRC with resources being overstretched and
often resulting in visible crisis, like online services becoming unavailable.

Change the assessment and self-assessment system to a more flexible one spread around the year.
For example, setting as the deadline the anniversary of the business or of the individual. Or, using
the individual’s National Insurance Number's last two digits, as DWP does at Jobcentreplus.

The tax platform would not have to serve tens of millions of users at once, but would deal with
them around the year. That would significantly reduce the resources needed and would also
eliminate the risk of 'major incidents' jeopardizing all users at once – like during the online Self
Assessment peaks in January of past years (2016 was the first really trouble free online Self

Chapter II Towards a Responsible HMRC Culture

Organizational culture contains the written and unwritten sets of rules, customs, rituals and practices
guiding one how to act at and around work. It is summarized by the set of principles one has to
follow when taking decisions.

Excessively controlled civilian environments based on 'stick and carrot' and rigid chains of
command are not only lacking efficiency, innovation and creativity but they also 'rip the soul' of
their staff by exposing them to huge levels of prolonged and illogical stress. Every single step of
any employee is highly controlled and regimented. Since the institution is worrying more about it’s
'image' and not wishing to show ‘weaknesses', than about doing things right! As such, assuming
risks and taking unsupervised decisions is a rather seldom act.

HMRC is no exception to the above. Effectively, anything has to be justified on paper and usually
on multiple papers. Remember why a Bureaucracy is generating mountains of documents? Yes, to
justify its own existence …

One clear issue is that commands from above are exactly that – "Commands" - and they should be
followed to the letter and each level of command between the issuer and the doer enforces the
rigidity of the command. This prevents innovation, causing a Kamikaze approach where regardless
of the consequences the instruction must be followed; in example, these include:

 Unnecessary delivery deadlines,

 Reduced quality,
 Poor user research,
 Poor user journeys.

Instead of issuing commands the organization should adopt an approach where goals are stated. In
doing so the intervening command levels, instead of enforcing the change, could contribute to the
clearer development of the change.

Culture and traditions at this point are embedded in a rather unique way at HMRC and efficiency
can not become reality in this environment until a radical step is taken: the radical step is to
implement a new mentality from the very top! Any organisation that is heavy in terms of size,
methods, processes and bureaucracy can be transformed only from the top, with the very proactive
support of those in charge! Anything else will fail to bring improvements mainly because of the
'command and control' mentality acting as a continuous brake: waiting for approval for every single
step means a very slow motion.

1. HMRC's organizational culture is one based on complete obedience enforced by a rigid

command and control pyramidal structure.

Any employee speaking his mind is prone to oppression from multiple layers above him/her.
Abusive language is seen as normal when used by bosses and those rare people trying to oppose

abusive behaviour, or poor decisions coming from above, are pushed on the side, usually with their
careers in tatters.

Create an Open Culture based on Open Communication and Open Collaboration principles,
enhancing Social Intelligence/Group Intelligence/Emotional Intelligence of every single individual
member of the staff, whatever the rank.

2. An archaic ranking system based mostly on 'time served' in HMRC is keeping

efficiency and initiative away.

The grade of an employee of HMRC is based mostly on how long a time one has been employed
and how little opposition one had towards traditional ways of doing the work, however ludicrous or

Replace the existing ranking with a flat structure based on knowledge and merits. Transform the
Manager to Facilitator and you are half way through! Allow those in knowledge to make decisions
and to assume the responsibility and receive the merits for their achievements.

Use Technology to make your work easier, not heavier. For example, encourage direct interaction,
face-to-face or phone conversation, rather then emails or chats.

3. Multiple layers of management act as 'buffers' by not allowing unfiltered/uncensored

communication from bottom towards top.

Any criticism is censored by the upper layers of management.

Create a systemic collaborative environment where anyone can contact anyone else when deemed

Encourage creativity and responsibility rather than 'obedience' and 'inertia'.

4. The very top of HMRC, Executive Committee (ExComm), is not fed with real time
information over the dis-functionalities of the institution !

Direct communication, as a general rule, is only with the layer directly above or bellow one.

The only times the top of HMRC seems to react promptly are those instances when vehement
criticism is targeting them after a public outrage over one failure or another.

Ask for continuous feedback from all your collaborators, direct or indirect! Accept constructive

criticism and give your true opinion when need be. One must be in touch with every single level
under his/her command.

5. Rigidity of processes and methodologies prevails over common sense decision making!

Inertial decision making processes, based on 'this is how we did it so far'.

Challenge openly poor practices. You are a human being in the same way as the other is a human
being: you have the same rights and obligations!

6. Existing blame culture results in tending to avoid responsibility at all levels!

When a sensitive issue arises it is a habit to first make sure the superiors give their opinion and only
after that, take a decision.

Act professionally by doing the right thing and assuming the consequences! Think and behave in
terms of 'how can I contribute?' rather than 'when do I get my paycheck?'

7. Absence of transparency inside HMRC leads to covering up poor judgement at all


It is damaging in both the short and long term and it generates organizational incompetence. It has
also led to a corrupting clientelism system based on 'I owe you' interactions.

Promote a new mentality, based on common sense and open collaboration. Oppose in the open any
poor ideas by applying constructive criticism principles.

Allow responsibility to be voluntarily assumed by both individuals and teams instead of being
imposed upon them.

8. Self-praising is a constant when promoting HMRCs image !

From job adverts to PR and social events HMRC is showing mostly an artificial bright side.

Stop distorting reality. Get real feedback from employees and public then change accordingly!

Chapter III You get what you pay for

Recruitment is a vital element for organizational success and for any major organizational change.
Once the culture needed at HMRC is established, one can start aligning the recruitment processes
towards hiring only people being a good fit for the culture in question, starting at the very top. It is a
science in itself to let the right people in, so better learn how to do it properly!

As per the title of this chapter, you can hire and retain competitive staff only if you pay competitive
rates. The modern market is ruled by a high demand of skills and aptitudes, in which the most
competitive and adaptive people are chased by the private sector, with the public sector retaining the
services of the rest. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are just that: exceptions.

Long gone are the times when one was choosing a career to forever serve “Queen and Country”. If
you still believe in those values then you are anchored in a highly unrepeatable past. Nowadays, the
values are dictated by ideas such as 'globalization', 'one state planet' and similar. Technology has
erased most physical boundaries and that is the unstoppable trend all around the world. So, instead
of hiding the head in the sand it's better to face reality and to take the right measures: hire people
looking to do their job efficiently now, and dispose of those dreaming of a comfortable nest,
insulated from external real life!

A painful explanation behind Civil Service inefficiency is summarized bellow!

Out of each generation of graduates the most promising and most clever youngsters are recruited by
the private sector, paying them good wages and investing continuously in their professional
development. The rest, the average and bellow average graduates, are oscillating between low paid
jobs in both private and public sector.

As time goes by, generation after generation the public sector receives the services of those who
were never at the top of their field of activity. The gap in quality, especially of the Management,
between the private sector and public sector is increasing to the detriment of the public sector.
Accordingly, however willing to perform well, the Civil Service 'mandarins' will always be
outperformed by their equivalents from the private sector – again, with a few exceptions which
remain just that: exceptions.

There should be no wonder why public services become more and more inefficient over time. And
they keep growing because of the very same inefficiency. Apparently, Civil Service has now over
half a million employees! It is a hundred times bigger than during the peak of Victorian Empire!!!

1. By heavily outsourcing recruitment HMRC is giving away the control over quality of
outcome of selection process. As such, the quality of permanent and contracting staff is not
constantly fit for purpose.

Recruitment agencies are selecting candidates based rather on commissions agreed than on
competencies of the candidates. Usually the better skilled candidates are left out since they are
asking for higher remunerations. The recruitment is nowadays done in a monopolistic way where a
handful of 'agreed' big agencies are subcontracting to a plethora of smaller recruiters, each one

cutting a share of the amount paid by HMRC.

Give up outsourcing your recruitment: start with key roles and stay away from keywords based CV
selection. Involve actively in recruitment your existing staff members already aligned to the new
company culture. And most of all, select your people based on their Social Intelligence/Soft Skills!

To explain the above, while anyone of average intelligence can learn a technical skill in a matter of
weeks, it takes years to acquire 'people skills'. For HMRC to be successful, there is a vital need for
'soft skills' training, coaching, mentoring and consulting at top levels first, and only once that has
been achieved, working with the rest of the organization.

Technical skills have to be properly tested during the recruitment process to make sure HMRC
doesn't hire people lacking the very skills needed. Involve, from the very beginning, the entire team
with which the successful candidate will be working: if they don't get along at the interview stage
then it makes no sense to hire them – otherwise one will end with dysfunctional teams!

2. When interviewing contractors HMRC is applying the same standard as for

permanent employees!

HMRC is still interviewing incoming contractors. This however follows the standard Civil Service
competency framework which can be a disadvantage to both HMRC, by using an incorrect
assessment model, and candidates, which will be disadvantaged also by not being prepared for such
assessment model. The standard Civil Service competency framework should not be applied to
Contractors, since they are already specialized in solving a particular type of problem.

That process also does not accurately ascertain the candidate’s suitability for the Agile roles since
the standards of Civil Service have nothing in common with Agile principles. The Civil Service is
not comparing apples with apples, rather oranges and apples.

The Civil Service competency framework should only be used for civil servants and then only for
generic roles - it should play no part of Agile teams recruitment.

3. A full time employee in HMRC is highly unlikely to ever be fired, unless committing
serious misconduct.

There is no efficient mechanism allowing to measure the real contribution of an employee to the
success or failure of the organization.

Introduce accountability in terms of efficiency and waste. Beside the presence at work HMRC
should measure the active involvement with end clients and colleagues, as well.

4. Contracting is considered a quick fix.

In reality HMRC spends vast amounts of money without receiving 'value for money' because the
top management has a superficial understanding of the problems to be solved.

The initial plan for the Digital Delivery Centres was to start with contractors and have their skills
transferred gradually to permanent staff. The idea was, down the line, to replace contractors with
Civil Servants. However, the early successes from the Centres has led to an hectic increase in
workload which has prevented skills transfer. Hence, specific skills such as test automation and
code development is lacking amongst newly recruited civil servants.

When external specialists/contractors are hired their relevant expertise in the field should be
acknowledged, taken on-board and used efficiently. In order for permanent staff to acquire and
retain new skills from contractors, HMRC needs to create mechanisms allowing these contractors to
train, coach and mentor permanent staff.

The contractor working with the Civil Servant purely as a means of accomplishing a particular
project is providing skills only on a superficial level. There is no real transfer of skills on a deeper
understanding of the technical aspects, especially when the focus is on speed of delivery.

Therefore only real and lasting benefit will be obtained when sufficient time for learning and skills
transfer is provided.

5. HMRC wages for permanent jobs are no competition to private sector.

Wages paid by the private sector for similar roles are much higher. Hence, top specialists always
prefer private sector. Given bellow is a comparison of wages paid by HMRC, private sector wages
and daily rates paid by HMRC to external contractors.

Agile Role Civil Service Grade HMRC Pay Scale Private Sector Pay Daily Contractor

Product Owner Grade 7 £48389-£55501 £67500 - £72000 £400+

Scrum Master SO £35761-£40194 £55000 - £60000 £400+
Developer HO £29358-£33076 £45000 - £60000 £300+
QA Tester HO £29358-£33076 £40000 - £52000 £300+
Business Analyst HO £29358-£33076 £50000 - £70000 £300+
UX Designer HO £29358-£33076 £47000 - £625000 £300+
User Researcher HO £29358-£33076 £60000 + £350+
Architect Grade 7 £48389-£55501 £72500 + £400+

Increase wages and 'perks' for permanent Civil Service roles in order to attract the most

knowledgeable candidates. Empower every employee to decide what is best to do in any given
situation. Trust employees and treat them as the mature highly skilled professionals they were hired
to be.

Morale of Civil Servants working in the digital space is low. The fact that they are working
alongside so many contractors, whose remuneration is so much higher than their own, for doing the
same job, is a factor that needs to be considered. Also the saving of Contractor fees would enable
an increase in remuneration without additional money needing to be found.

6. In HMRC wages are taxed exactly like anywhere else!

Apart from constituting double-taxation since the money paid to employees is in fact tax collected
from the public, by taxing the wages of its employees HMRC is placing most of them in the
category of 'bottom of middle class' in terms of standards of living.

Stop taxing HMRC's own employees!

7. No consistent professional development for permanent staff!

As a direct effect of lack of professional development of permanent staff, we now see an excessive
number of contractors brought in to solve issues and being paid several times more than permanent

Invest in long term professional development! Training, coaching, mentoring, consulting. Allow
each employee to organize its continuous professional development in alignment with the private
sector. Allow people to put in practice their newly acquired skills. Allow people to fail and learn
from it.

8. Huge staff turnover in digital space

A main cause of staff turnover in the digital space area is the absence of a culture based on
positivity and motivational instruments.

In addition, HMRC relies on so many contractors, who are engaged for relatively short periods of
time regardless of whether or not the actual project requires more long term input. This on/off
mentality leads to additional instability and both contractors and permanent staff are unsettled
which causes destabilisation and waste of money and resources.

Invest in transforming the current command and control system in one based on self responsibility
and self organisation.

Invest time and resources to enhance Social Intelligence and empathy amongst mid and senior
management. Openly recognise and give credit to those skilled efficient staff to provide value.

9. Too much staff!

Every single public employee is a consumer of tax collected from taxpayers.
At this point we estimate that over a quarter of a million public service employees are filling
unnecessary positions, being significantly underpaid as compared to similar roles in private sector.

Instead of the current Civil Service Voluntary Exit Scheme, consideration could be given to offering
permanent HMRC employees the equivalent of two/three years of salary, tax free, if they choose to
leave Civil Service. Create incentives to motivate them in opening their own small businesses. That
would reduce public expenses and would increase the number of producers of tax! Such an
approach would result in a real economic boost and could bring long term economic stability to the

10. Flexi-time is counterproductive in team work!

If some team members are present nine-to-five everyday and other members are working flexibly,
the team efficiency will be drastically diminished. Especially so in teams composed of both
permanent staff and contractors.

Align the working time of permanent staff and contractors.

Chapter IV Efficient Communication and HMRC

The 'stick and carrot' culture of HMRC generates inefficient procedures, processes and tools of

It appears to be the norm rather than the exception to have overlapping activities in different
departments where the one is simply duplicating the work of the other. An even worse scenario
exists where a problem, that is not unique to one department, is fixed and the solution is not
generally communicated to all. Therefore, this silo mentality creates duplication of effort,
unnecessary waste of time money and resources. Poor communication generates poor decision
making which impacts efficiency.

Traditionally HMRC has worked in a totally siloed manner. This is because HMRC has grown over
time as a product of ministerial decisions. HMRC is therefore an amalgamation of, Contributions
Agency, Inland Revenue and Customs and Excises. This in turn has led to a very complex IT
architecture with way too many Head of Duty services which have proved to be too expensive and
the UK government doesn't have the appetite to invest in fixing this.

To tie in with this complex structure the business structure is also complex. This therefore leads to
an inefficient communication process where different siloed business stakeholders will need to be
included in the communication channels.

1. No criticism from bottom up is allowed at HMRC.

One looking to express critical opinions over decisions from above is actively and categorically
discouraged to do it. The author of this Guide has witnessed this behaviour on multiple instances,.
After bringing to the attention at the very top of the structure, what he believed to be unprofessional
managerial behaviour, resulting in the unjust dismissal of a colleague, he was at the receiving end
of threats with dismissal and premature end of contract.

Train people to speak their mind! Instigate and practice positive argument and constructive

An example of positive argument is, instead of using 'yes, but ...' to use 'yes, and what/how…'. Or,
instead of pointing 'it is your fault, you fix it' to phrase it like 'it wasn't the most efficient possible,
let's see how can we improve it'!

A simple change of expression can, most of the time, reduce antagonistic situations to no more than
a harmless misunderstanding. All it takes is practice and attention to what the other person is saying,
both orally and through body language. Again, training, coaching, mentoring, consulting ...

2. Excessive layers of staff involved in communicating between silos!

Due to the highly rigid structure of HMRC a message from one compartment to another usually
passes through several layers of hierarchy.

Create the tools allowing anyone to contact anyone else around HMRC.
It is far better to have to answer a futile question about the facility of a service while in
development instead of having to answer why a facility was not added to a service already available
to the public.

Think about transparency as your friend - it is there to help you solve issues and to help others to
help you solve issues.

3. Prolonged time of reaction because of unclear messages!

Unclear messages and requests are causing staff to waste time trying to clarify them.

Feedback has to be asked for immediately following instructing someone about something, even
more so, when the people having the conversation are from different specialities. Clearer
communication can be achieved by asking someone, of a different speciality, to summarize in their
own wording the instructions received. That allows both sides to establish and use a common
language on a common ground, avoiding misunderstandings and waste of resources.

4. Waste of resources caused by contradictory decisions!

Decisions taken in haste are usually overturned due to later discoveries or clarification of the
processes in use! At times, political decisions can be in flagrant contradiction with functional
technical principles and with security or compliance rules.

Always the specialist opinion should prevail over any other opinions.
For example, a Security Consultant should have the final word over Security aspects and no senior
employee should be allowed to overturn such a decision, whatever the political implications.

5. Huge amounts of time and resources are spent in useless meetings for the sake of

By default at HMRC meetings are planned in multiples of hours, being set to last at least one hour.

Initial meetings should include everyone with a 'finger in the pie'. Afterwards, introduce the rule of

'vital presence, only'.

Prior to scheduling a meeting have those interested in the topic decide what the purpose and likely
outcome of the meeting should be. Accept only meetings already having a well defined and tangible
purpose, likely to be accomplished in the timeframe allocated.
Promote meetings no longer than 30 minutes at a time!
Transform your Managers in Facilitators!

6. Excessive usage of acronyms and abbreviations!

When using for too long the abbreviated name of an item people tend to forget the very reason for
existing of that item.

Forbid acronyms and abbreviations.
While it takes longer to name something like 'Minimal Viable Product' instead of 'MVP', HMRC
would gain by making sure that the vital characteristic of that object remains clearly defined in
everybody's mind – in this example 'minimal viable' being the vital characteristic. It also allows new
staff to integrate much more quickly.

7. Excessive usage of communication technology!

At HMRC it is a common practice for people working only a few feet away to communicate
through email rather than face to face. This is the direct result of a 'blame culture' where everybody
has to cover his back in writing.

Encourage face-to-face and oral communication instead of email or “chat”. Don't worry about
people looking to cover their backs with written messages. In an Open Organizational Culture, a
mature professional is always happy to admit a mistake since there is a no 'blame culture'.

Co- locate as much as possible people working on the same project. Make sure those collaborating
remotely get to spend time working shoulder by shoulder on a regular basis.

8. Incompetent choices of communication tools!

No thorough analysis of tools to be chosen is made.

A staggering example is that of changing from using Skype, which was accessible to both
permanent staff and contractors, to a different communication tool which, for months, was only
usable by contractors because civil servant laptops/stations were restricted - for security reasons –
from accessing that particular online tool. That in itself has caused significant waste of time and
money not least because of creating a gap of real time communication between permanent staff and

Another example of poor decision making is the highly restricted set of software installed on
permanent staff computers: they are not able to use their equipment at full capacity because of
excessive security and compliance limitations.

Align hardware and software to those used by private sector – ideally Open Source.

Keep pace with private sector practices in tooling.

Build in-house customized tools if needed.

Chapter V Top of the Game

Information Technologies are used at HMRC in a totally childish way. Instead of thinking in terms
of getting and remaining at the forefront of technology, through automating and simplifying
processes and interactions both internal and external with end clients, those leading HMRC act as
though they have no clue or interest in efficient outcomes of their technical initiatives.

HMRC relies on an old proprietary platform belonging to an external supplier (Accenture, former
Andersen Consulting) with increased costs and decreased control. The very core of the National Tax
Platform is over two decades old and it was built from the very beginning on the top of an even
older system (NIRS).

HMRC is in effect drastically limiting its own capacities by persisting to run and build layers and
services on top of that legacy system.

Beside having a monopolist effect, by eliminating any possible real competition, the above is also
making impossible any real progress in terms of adopting most modern technologies.

1. Online digital services are customized to standards from the Internet era of the 1990s.

Web interfaces are built to old standards and they are not customized for new hand-held devices.
The functionality, the look and the feel of web pages is outdated and that makes it difficult for the
public to interact with HMRC.

Adopt modern standards of web interfaces, based on thorough research of customers' online

2. Too much is spent on an IT infrastructure that vitally relies on external suppliers.

Every aspect of IT in HMRC is either completely outsourced, or heavily dependent on external
suppliers, because some years ago IT was outsourced from HMRC.

Invest in HMRC's own proprietary IT platform.
Build a new IT tax platform dedicated to new technologies and hardware. Make it fully automated
and able to run independent micro-services.
Interconnect the IT platform of HMRC with all the other civil services. That would avoid repetitive
and overlapping investments since there would be a unique civil service IT mega platform.

3. Pace of development of digital services is dictated by the strategic external partners!

While HMRC is beginning to try to work in fast modern agile ways the external strategic suppliers
are working using slower traditional management ways. Sometimes that might be on purpose
because it allows them to charge more money for more hours spent on a project.

Avoid committing to contracting over several years and instead use flexible short term contracts.
Chose suppliers based on their ability to provide at a pace dictated by HMRC.

4. Lack of IT/Computer Science savvyness at the top of HMRC.

Effectively, those in power have no knowledge and those with knowledge have no power!
Erroneous strategic decisions made in absence of IT knowledge are a serious cause of waste.

For example, buying initial Cloud Services based on hardware sharing with other big organizations!
That was a main reason for digital services failing at peak times. Whoever has accomplished the
purchase agreement with the private Cloud supplier had absolutely no knowledge of what the
implications of 'shared hardware' at peak times is.

Hire highly skilled IT specialists at ALL levels of HMRC, including Executive Committee.

It is only common sense for one to get poor results when managing something beyond one's own
understanding and knowledge.

5. Incompetent contractual agreements with external IT suppliers allow unjustified

fluctuations in price and quality of services provided to HMRC!

It is a common occurrence for development not to progress as planned. This is occasioned by
external suppliers not fulfilling their contractual obligations, or not being required to provide a
constant high quality of services and, when the service falls short of requirements, not being
penalised sufficiently for the shortfall.

SOLUTION: Hire better solicitors, for better wages, and involve in contractual negotiations skilled
IT staff able to identify what minimal quality levels of services are required.
Or, outsource legal services to competent private companies and pay them based on performance.

6. Compartmentalisation of work in and around IT generates silos which prevent

information circulating in real time around the organization.

Development cannot happen at speed when the necessary information is not provided.

Let development dictate the pace of work within HMRC rather than the other way around.

Establish a unique control mechanism to include also unique version control of software under

Create a live summary of the work in progress around the organization, with clear rules of posting
based on key words, so that overlapping or redundant work could be spotted straight away.

7. IT priorities are dictated from the very top without a real strategy or planning.

Top echelons of HMRC often throw, contradictory at times, new demands upon development
teams, mostly based on who shouts louder.

Because of the structure of HMRC, once a senior manager has expressed a desire to have something
built the lower management takes this as a "must do" instruction and deliver with little thought
reegarding quality or questions as to whether it is the right thing to do.

Establish a long term general plan with clear goals and stick to it.
Keep politics out of it.

8. An atmosphere of mistrust between various departments and technical teams.

Mistrust between silos generates lack of availability of information when needed.

For example, Operations Support doesn't trust Development Teams enough to completely automate
the deployment of new services. Or, the Business Side doesn't trust IT sufficiently to allow them to
self-organize software development. The result is a chaotic decision making processes.

The IT department is building digital services meant to support the needs of the end customer, the
taxpayer. In despite of that, the Business teams involved in the back end processes see themselves
as both owners and users of those digital services. Therefore, Business wrongly dictates the look
and feel of the final product, again by making wrong assumptions on behalf of the client. .

At a certain point I have personally tried to obtain, from the Commercial side of HMRC,
information on the minimum quality of services contracted from an external supplier. The supplier
in question was constantly performing poorly hence causing serious impediments to the work.
Again and again I was refused, despite the disruption to the work, the information under the excuse
of contractual confidentiality.

Implement complete transparency around HMRC.
Knowing in advance what will be the minimum level of service to be supplied by external suppliers
will allow planning adjustments and flexible technical approaches when developing digital services.

9. Systems Unfit for purpose for raising and flagging technical issues!

Unfit for purpose systems results in a very slow reaction time to infrastructure issues, mainly
because of understaffed teams at support level. The problem is exacerbated by a total lack of
transparency over the functioning of the support infrastructure which results in constant friction
between Development, Operations and External Suppliers.

For example, in my first week of working at HMRC, I flagged a possible technical cause for the
constant interruptions experienced by testers in working over Virtual Private Networks. The Virtual
Private Networks were supplied by third parties and the constant failure of the testing process was
interfering with the development process. It took four months for the issue to be finally addressed,
even then, only a temporary fix was provided.

Change the system and change those in charge.

10. Expensive HMRC internal Legacy IT Systems.

It costs far more to maintain and expand an obsolete infrastructure than to build a new one from

Unify and centralize the different technical solutions existing around HMRC.

In addition, I would like to stress the huge potential of the Government Digital Scheme (GDS)
which in my opinion, at this point, is misused. Misused because the GDS seems to be managing
Agile Digital space with a very Waterfall/Traditional Management approvals process.

The government’s main focus is to bring the civil service kicking and screaming into the digital age,
it has introduced the slogan "Digital by Default" and GDSs have been given the responsibility to
police a set of 18 digital standards to support this vision. The problem is that GDS is part of the
Cabinet Office and is “civil service” to the core. They claim to have fully embraced the Agile
methodology however, their true colors shine through when it comes to managing the process.
All digital products must obtain GDS approval and must attend an assessment to move from an ini-
tial Alpha stage to Beta, Beta to Public Beta and then finally Live. At these assessments the delivery
service manager is asked to demonstrate the product and then supply evidence that they have fol-
lowed the 18 standards. The trouble lies with this having become an examination where the delivery
service manager is being tested, not the product. These assessments take at least 3 hours and are
held in London which takes the delivery service manager and certain team members away from
their team and their work. In addition, because of the” make or break” nature of the assessment, the
delivery service manager and team will invest a lot of time analyzing the standards and making cer-
tain they seem to hit all the standards. On top of this the teams also practice the interview ahead of
the assessment to obtain experience of the assessment itself.

This all sounds and feels very waterfall, a more agile thinking solution would be to involve GDS as
advisors, being assigned to a project from the very start, and then guiding them through the stan-
dards. That would help development teams to build the best product they can. Assessment should be
done throughout the software's life cycle in an Agile iterative manner and not at the end of a particu-
lar period.

GDS’s stance has caused HMRC to challenge the rules and bully their way into delivery. It is now a
common practice for departments to run in-house mock GDS assessments.
The above leads to poor customer experience and potential security flaws.

Chapter VI When and how to eliminate waste

It is the norm in HMRC to report from bottom upwards only. The top of HMRC is neither
accountable nor transparent to 'lower' levels. Work is accomplished in silos and that generates waste
of resources. Information is put together at one level, conclusions are drawn at a different level,
decisions are made at a totally different level and so on. To clarify an issue one needs to waste time
and resources. At HMRC there is no vertical transparency and no horizontal interdepartmental open
communication and open collaboration. The main problem causing the above statement is that the
Executive Committee keeps believing that decisions are made in the right place!

To understand the impact of the above, let's analyze how military circles operate!
Central Head Quarters dictate the line of attack/ defense and organize the supplies and reserves.
Field commanders provide strategic battle plans, where and when the attack will take place and the
initial formations. In the actual battle it is the Formation commanders who make the important
tactical decisions. This has been the strategy employed since around the Napoleonic wars. Armies
which didn't adopt this approach lost their battles and this approach has continued to the modern

The main difference in the way HMRC operates is that those in contact with the end client have no
power to adapt the tactics and they have to blindly execute those plans made by the Executive
Committee. This type of strategy is applied to whatever changes in the field and whatever the
potential catastrophic impacts may be.

The Executive Committee sets the strategic direction, sets the Targets and provides the resources,
then Grade 6 level staff sets the formation of the teams and lines the initial set up in line with the
strategic goals. It should be up to the managers at the front line to make the tactical decisions, to
shape the user needs/requirements and to meet the goals. This would be at around Product
Manager / Product Owner level.

Nota Bene: efficiency becomes material only when employees are able to collaborate openly, to
assume risks, to experiment, to learn from failures and so on.

1. Decisions are taken using different measures for different situations.

Priorities might change when a decision is made, in direct relation to where the request is coming
from or the political interests involved. Frequently public interest is pushed to the bottom of the list
of priorities.

Implement a simple unique way of decision making based on Open Culture principles.
Create mechanisms and rules allowing individual responsibility based on professional competence.

For example, telling the specialists what the goal is and allowing him to choose the way to
accomplish the goal. Don't allow political populist reasoning to prevail over security aspects. A
security specialist, a Class consultant, should always have the last word to say over a security matter

instead of being overridden by a political decision from the top.

2. Roles around HMRC are too vaguely defined!

It is a common occurrence for responsibilities to be flexed, as convenient, to those managing a role.
One can be asked by her/his manager to assume responsibilities over situations for which one is not

An example is that of development teams being asked to also provide operational support for the
digital services they created, including customer support if needed, notwithstanding the fact that the
development teams have had no training in customer support.

Proper definition of roles and responsibilities!
Training and continuous development of staff at all levels.

3. Practically, any initiative of transforming HMRC ends by being annihilated by senior

and mid management in a very 'Yes, Minister' manner, be it by complicating things, or be it
by postponing them.

Introducing digital services at HMRC has become a never ending process which consumes more
and more resources with less and less Return of Investment.

Change mentalities at the very top and change those people unable to adopt and adapt to the new

Again, the hierarchical system of promotion based on 'time served' in HMRC is highly detrimental
to the organization. Understandably, those having sacrificed a significant part of their existence to
achieve a higher rank will drastically oppose any changes which might result in them loosing
position, power over others, perks and so on.

4. Absolute control is seen by senior management as the only way of keeping HMRC

The huge amount of daily information gathered by the front-line of the organization is summarized
and re-summarized at each upper level. Then, a decision is made based on those summarized
summaries and the decision is passed down the ranks to be executed. Unfortunately, the dynamics
of modern life are such that by the time the decision comes back to the front-line the situation in the
field has long changed!

Allow the front-line to decide how to do what needs to be done!
Again, transparency around open organizational culture is the key.

5. Structural complexity of HMRC is now such, that no project can be started by
knowing in advance all the factors involved.

Process control and red tape prevail over common sense.

Make sure there is always only one person in charge with a given project or programme and that
person has full authority and responsibility.
Keep politics out of it.

6. Training is superficial and not followed by consistent practice of new skills.

Training for the sake of training. Once new skills are acquired, if the person has no opportunity to
implement and use the new skills, the skills will be lost.

A blatant example is that of intensive Scrum Master training given to almost everyone within
Digital development. The problem is that a Scrum Team has only one Scrum Master. There also are
half a dozen other roles, for which no specific training has ever been supplied.

The decision makers need to have an in-depth understanding of what they are buying and for whom
is being bought before committing to purchasing services or equipment.

Identify if a new skill is first of all needed and will be used, practised and improved upon prior to a
full time employee receiving training.
Maintain and increase know-how by providing regular training and coaching.

7. HMRC might face serious loses through possible liabilities from cases currently in

HMRC might be convicted by Courts to pay total compensations over £35 Billions according to the
suggestions made by the National Audit Office in their Standard Report 2015.

Transform the penalizing tax system into a motivating tax system able to prevent such litigations
from reaching the Court.
Adopt a system of negotiating tax in such a way to allow a flexible outcome.

8. Lack of synchronization between all the parties involved in creating and supporting
digital services.

Poor synchronization of planning, development and support operations between different parts of
HMRC creates even more waste of resources.
Centralize the process in the hands of the manager responsible for building the service.

Chapter VII A Time to Review

The civil service/HMRC seems unable to perform without restricting IT with process and red tape.
IT development is pinned down by bureaucracy.

Before a project gets to the Digital Delivery Teams it has to move through the Change Framework.
This framework operates a gated process. The project owner has to prepare detailed information and
present the progress to a board which gives approval to move the project through the next gate.
A project will have to pass through three gates and have the architectural solution and high level
requirements agreed and signed off in a traditional waterfall way before it arrives to the Digital
development teams. What this means is that there has already been a huge investment of time,
resources and money and there is still yet to be any user research done or software written. All
spending up to that point being based on guesstimates/assumptions made by Business Management.
Waste doesn't end once the project moves into the Digital Teams. The Change Framework process
continues up to and including a further 5 gates, with some of these being repeated should the digital
service go through a number of major changes/releases. Each gate requires a set of signed-off
documentation and agreement from a selected panel. This is a huge misuse of time and resources.

Taxpayers are shareholders. Everybody pays direct and indirect taxes and it is this money providing
wages to civil servants. As such, every taxpayer should have shareholder powers over how public
money is spent.

A civil service like HMRC has outgrown its original purpose and the only way to give the public
value for money is to reduce it to minimally functional dimensions. Political institutions are not
enough to achieve this purpose. There needs to be a public will to do it!

1. Focus on end client!

Continuously ask the public for feedback then incorporate it in your work.

2. Change the tax system!

Put it in the open and make it efficient.

3. Assume responsibility!
Every single member of the staff.

4. Change the command and control pyramidal hierarchy into a servant-leader flat structure!
Ask the staff for continuous feedback.

5. Bring IT into the present time.

Build your own in-house IT platform.

6. Become completely transparent!

Show the real complexities of how the internal work is done.

7. Create fit for purpose digital services!

Stop building digital services by copying the traditional paper based processes. Rethink the

functioning of HMRC in the light of modern IT which allows full automation of repetitive

8. Ask for public help!

Open communication and open collaboration with the public at all levels.

9. Adopt a fit for purpose model of financing digital space!

Take Digital out of the traditional structure of HMRC. Make IT independent of current
inefficient practices.

10. Systemic thinking!

While I am aware of the complexity of the current HMRC regarding the difficulty of implementing
radical changes, I do believe efficiency to be not only possible, but also realistically achievable. The
main argument for change like the ones proposed in this Guide remains long term efficiency!

To the readers of this Guide I can only repeat the reality of everyone being a taxpayer, directly or
indirectly. This money is also used to pay the Civil Service. It means everyone is both client and
shareholder of the Civil Service – and that creates responsibilities!

By A-R Ciceu
Agile practitioner.

Newcastle-uponTyne, 21st of July 2016