Robotic solutions based on ideas from staff

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the UK tax authority, is automating processes to give a better service to customers as part of their wider digital transformation. They are using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate time-consuming clerical tasks, and link digital services and back-office systems for end-to-end processing, without significant IT development effort. To grow robotics capability from scratch, HMRC worked with Capgemini to design, build and run Automation Delivery Centers (ADCs). This involved setting up a platform for robotics software that had never been deployed at such scale before, establishing an operating model, and building a team of experts who cross-skill new team members to meet demand.

“HMRC are leading the way for Government in using RPA to deliver real savings and service improvements. Their vision and pioneering approach, creating a center of excellence to identify opportunities and coordinate development, puts them at least two to three years ahead of the rest of Government. Their model is being mirrored by Cabinet Office to accelerate the use of RPA across government. Their willingness to share their experiences, has been instrumental in raising cross-government awareness.”
James Merrick-Potter,
Cabinet Office

The ADCs opened in April 2016, and within just 18 months they delivered 56 solutions that have handled nearly 7.5 million robotic transactions and are used by over 11,500 staff. HMRC’s approach returns 2x project investment in-year and empowers their people to work with robotics, and is recognized as a leading UK Government example of using RPA to improve customer experience and job satisfaction.

Automating processes for better customer service and efficiency savings

  • Results include:
  • Dashboards cut call times by up to 2 minutes
    Dashboards give information and guidance to advisers’ computer screens by automatically opening files from a number of different systems. For one dashboard, advisers previously had 66 mouse clicks to navigate different systems and they now get the information in 10 clicks to quickly provide the correct guidance.
  • 85% of employer registration applications are processed automatically
    Robots validate data from online applications and provide a unique reference number to new employers so they can start employing staff. If the robots detect a problem, they add helpful notes to a case file for the exceptions handling team. Employers receive confirmations quickly, and processing costs are around 80% lower.
  • Processing for 255 intelligent forms, with no significant IT development effort
    Robots link iForms to the Digital Mail Service (DMS) which was originally set up to manage workflow for scanned customer correspondence. This has extended DMS functionality without significant development effort, which has minimised costs at the same time as improving customer service. Around 50% of Self-Assessment and PAYE calls are from customers checking the status of their form, so the robots are reducing call center demand.
  • Centralised governance in the ADC
    HMRC’s Automation Delivery Center (ADC) manages Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions from two UK centers which are co-located with Digital Delivery Centers. The ADC is made up of multi-disciplined teams of experts from HMRC and Capgemini who manage best practice robotic automation delivery across multiple projects.Robotics process, technology and digital specialists work with business owners to understand user requirements for business solution design and service management. They work together using agile methods to build, test and iterate robotics solutions quickly, and to ensure the automation will boost productivity and reduce processing costs.The ADC evaluates project ideas which come from staff across the organization. Viable suggestions get put forward to the Robotic Automation Board for review, and the ADC manages the pipeline of proposals and delivery. When projects are approved, ADC teams ensure solutions are built around user stories, and automation components are re-used to minimize IT development work. It can take as little as 5 weeks to take ideas through the Discovery, Alpha, Beta and Live phase.

The Collaborative Approach:

Capgemini helped HMRC evaluate the potential of robotics through a proof of concept to automate work previously done by a 30-strong team, which
achieved 100% processing accuracy, enabled 25 staff to undertake more satisfying, customer-facing work, and 5 staff became super-users to manage
exception cases. The outcomes contributed to a powerful business case for an automation delivery center capability. The first iteration of the ADCs focused on environments and DevOps governance. Capgemini experts worked with HMRC process and technical stakeholders to deliver the platform to integrate robotics with HMRC’s estate and then incorporated network, security, hosting and service level arrangements.

Innovations include:

  • Transcending traditional vendor/system integrator roles
    HMRC chose new-to-market robotics technology which had never deployed at such scale, so joint-engineering expertise was needed, to understand the art of the possible. The robotics software provider trained Capgemini’s lead platform architect in engineering elements of their product, blurring traditional vendor/system integrator roles for “this is what we want, but this happens, how can we get it working?” discussions, which instigated software enhancements ahead of projected product development plans.
  • Live-like test environment
    Unlike most digital services, robots are very sensitive to small differences in how the applications interact with each other and also their behavioural differences in test and live environments. Capgemini overcame test-to-live release delays, by introducing a live-like test environment.
  • Developing robotics skills on real projects
    The ADC is made up of multi-disciplined teams of experts from HMRC and Capgemini who manage best practice robotic automation delivery across multiple projects. To grow the ADC, the core team of experts on-boarded junior staff through an academy approach. New team members – including apprentices, graduates and people who cross-skill from other areas – work alongside mentors and learn by doing rather than relying on formal training. It is extremely rewarding to work on new solutions straight away and become mentors themselves, as their experience grows.
  • Empowering end-users to develop automations
    The ADC governance which HMRC and Capgemini established spans robotics-specific interaction with business process and system owners,
    and step-by-step project templates. The clear operating framework and configuration capability for non-technical users has enabled HMRC to start providing robotics licences to business teams. As a result, tax advisors and other business specialists are empowered to develop their own solutions, with academy-style mentoring from the ADC either remotely, or face-toface.