Building on better service for citizens: HMRC reform and modernisation

What it was:

Round table discussion, focusing on HMRC as a case study, attended by a range of people involved in the transformation of public services and public bodies, hosted by Reform at their Westminster office on 23 July 2018.

What I learned:

HMRC is engaged in ambitious transformation program:

  • HMRC compares well as a revenue authority but still working to close the tax gap.
  • Three objectives of the programme: improve service to customers, be more efficient, close the tax gap. Doing so by making tax digital for individuals and businesses.
  • Significant internal change programme, organising more along customer lines, plus location rationalisation, and upskilling
  • Original plans had arguably optimistic about the speed at which both HMRC and customers would change their behaviour
  • Approx £400M annual savings from the baseline achieved

Key lessons learned by HMRC:

  • Digital processes have to be end to end, look at the whole costumer journey, otherwise don’t really improve things or make savings.
  • Also important to look at the end to end journey for employees… If they don’t have the right tools as part of the process then things don’t improve
  • Sometimes it is not about technology, it is about changing behaviour or process or policy
  • Overall, end to end approach is key

Other points:

  • RPA seen as a tool to accelerate change.
  • Don’t neglect the role of public servants to engage the public and drive change.
  • NHS has challenges in that expectations of patients are changing, and NHS is federation of organisations not a single organisation.
  • An important factor is arguably the strength of connection between the leadership and the customers. At times organisations have got ahead of customer expectations for digital, sometimes they have fallen behind.
  • Involving the customer is key, some organisations are reorienting their structures around customers groups rather than their products.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Aim to hook our digital and data transformation programmes to wider change programmes, otherwise there is not a strong enough driver for change.
  • Try to ensure that our efforts bake in the principle of end to end transformation and design of services, and how we will support that. How do we support the early design and exploration of services?
  • Work to understand and define how digital and data capability are accessed by customers, how is that capability made available to them?

Defence digital masterclass @ Barclays Rise

What it was:

The first Defence digital masterclass, with various speakers on digital themes, hosted at Barclays Rise, Shoreditch, on 4 May 2018

What I learned:

Artificial Intelligence:

  • The AlphaZero AI algorithm learns from blank slate, does not just replay earlier human learning
  • Human beings already have symbiotic relationships with dogs, possibly we can see future relationship with AI?
  • Key valuable skill at the moment is being able to analyse convolutional networks
  • Future AI will not be evil but may do terrible things purely in trying to help
  • The UK 4G network is expanding to 99% coverage
  • AI is difficult to define… Douglas Hofstadter ” AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet”
  • Loose definition of AI: systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence
  • General adversarial networks, train the forger and the tester at the same time. Can be used to optimise at scale and pace.
  • Neuromorphic computing: chips that mimic brain function by only firing the ” neurons” when relevant, enabling high computational power with low electrical power
  • The lower power consumption may be a clue, from a macro (physics) perspective, that the chip is using more brain-like processes. Current traditional AI architectures tend to use many orders of magnitude more power than a human brain.
  • ‘Centaur chess’ where humans are supported by machines. Have beaten the best humans and best machines. Implies that human-machine partnership and process may be key to military success?

Different scales / types of digital transformation in businesses:

  • Business model transformation,
  • Customer experience innovation
  • Operating model transformation

Thirty five percent of P&G products come from outside the company via its innovation approach
Many innovative large companies are sustained or accelerated through government contracts and investment; it’s not the case that innovation only comes from private investment
Military rituals are similar to agile rituals?  Could be a useful alignment.
DEFRA are using machine learning to read incoming documents, identify the name and address etc, and direct the document within department

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Develop our model for digital transformation in defence, and to think about the technologies that underpin it
  • Think about business and process transformation as part of the model
  • Think about the working environment.
  • Make better connections outside MOD… we need to move to an ‘outside in’ approach