HMRC reviews contact-centre resilience after ‘multiple service incidents’

Assessment was commenced shortly after five days of outages – but identified ‘no immediate concern’, according to supplier
Photo: Pixabay

By Sam Trendall

17 Jan 2023

After experiencing “multiple service incidents”, HM Revenue and Customs has launched a review of the resilience of a contact-centre system recently deployed by the department.

The tax agency last month brought in Baringa Partners to lead the assessment, with the management consultancy retained on a fixed-term three-month contract worth £37,000, CSW sister publication PublicTechnology has revealed.

The deal was directly awarded to the firm, and came into effect on 8 December – just a few days after the conclusion of a five-day period of web and helpline outages suffered by HMRC, during which the department was unable to answer an estimated 100,000 calls.

According to recently published commercial documents: “The recently implemented Odigo platform has had multiple service incidents, which has raised questions over its resilience. HMRC would like an independent third party to review the platform and produce a report on its overall resilience. HMRC would like this output in way that it can be viewed as: standalone Odigo resilience findings; standalone HMRC resilience findings; and combined findings.”

The scope of the review includes an examination of “technology and architecture” that will assess factors such as “resilience of systems and infrastructure, failover models… monitoring mechanisms, data resilience, integration and timeouts”.

Also to be assessed are “technical documentation, including design specifications, architecture documents, Service specification and contractual obligations”, according to the department’s agreement with the consultancy firm.

Meanwhile, an investigation of “operational processes and performance, [will include] development and change control mechanisms, monitoring, incident response, business continuity and disaster recovery capability”. 

Baringa will also review how services are managed, including service-level agreements, metrics for assessing performance, and how they are reported.

Consultancy professionals conducting the assessment will “work collaboratively with HMRC colleagues and suppliers, particularly Odigo and Capgemini”, and will also “act as the escalation point for resolving delivery risks and issues” identified in the process.

At the conclusion of the review, a report will be presented to HMRC’s senior digital and IT leadership.

PublicTechnology contacted HMRC and Odigo earlier this week enquiring about the nature and volume of the “multiple service incidents” referenced in the procurement notice, any resulting impact on service provision, and the findings of the review.

Yesterday, the contract notice was amended to remove reference to any such incidents, and the attached contract documents have also now been redacted more extensively.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We regularly carry out resilience reviews of our services and suppliers. It is an important part of our standard due diligence to make sure we provide the best possible customer services.” 

A statement from Odigo added: “It is not unusual for a project of this scale and complexity for independent reviews to be performed at the stage of migration and completion. Odigo have fully collaborated and supported the review of the platform and are satisfied with the outcome which has reported no immediate concern.”

HMRC is currently in the closing stages of the of the Contact Engagement Programme – a major £226m project to implement a comprehensive range of new customer-service systems, including online platforms and telephony, supported by improve data and analytics capabilities. The programme is due to wrap up by the end of the current financial year.

Sam Trendall is editor of our sister publication PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared.

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