HM Revenue and Customs Chief Digital and Information Officer Mike Potter has a three-pronged approach to his digital strategy at the UK tax collection agency: enhance the use of technology, change the user experience, and attract the best talent.
And HMRC's 50 million customers are already reaping the benefits according to Potter. The department has completed more than two million webchats, 3.2 million virtual assistant interactions, more than one million Voice ID enrolments, and answered 40,000 queries on social media.
"Our whole approach has been based on test and learn, provide it, celebrate but you need to find people who are going to work with you on that, and then you iterate your way into the strategy, though delivering and transparently shaping services," Potter said last month at the Public Sector Show in London's ExCel.
"What you then find is the policies follow, because actually it's very demonstrative work. What needs to be true to make it work at scale is changing policy."
One such major policy followed in 2015, when then-chancellor George Osborne announced "the death of the annual tax return", and its rebirth as a self-assessment tax form in comprehensive digital accounts. It was up to HMRC to build something that could make that possible.
Digital security and Voice ID
That December HMRC launched digital personal tax accounts with an initial trial run of 3,000 users. It has since expanded to more than 10 million customers.
In January 2017, the department made another major launch when it rolled out of Voice ID, a biometrics service designed to expedite telephone security verification. Two million people had registered with the service by July, which will soon be extended across HMRC's digital services to make the customer's voice a full user interface.
"They get through all their tedious authentication much more quickly," says Potter. "The experience is better, it's helping to reduce waiting times on the phone, but more importantly for us, it keeps you secure."
The department also released a new app in April that lets customers renew tax credits at the click of a button instead of going through pages of documents or waiting for hours on the end of a phone line. Within three months it had been used by 23,000 people.
Potter also revealed that the HMRC will soon be embarking artificial intelligence trials.
He believes AI has enormous potential, but before that can be realised customers must digitise their business and information.
HMRC is embarking on a major digitisation drive of its own in an effort to go paperless using tools such as robotic automation to gather data and make it easier for advisors to serve customers.
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