SITUATION

As IR rolled out the first stage of its transformation project, it acknowledged shortcomings in the traditional approaches to IT delivery, which follows a ‘design, build, test, deliver’ process – but with testing predominantly from a systems' perspective. This can result in products delivered which aren’t fit for purpose from a customer’s point of view, despite meeting technical specifications.

With Assurity engaged to provide testing services across the transformation project, IR and Assurity worked together to find ways for IR’s customers – tax agents, individuals, businesses, third-party software providers and more – to play a direct role in influencing systems design (and development) based on real customer testing.

The suggestion from Assurity was that real customers should get access to newly-developed functions as they became available and be asked to perform critical actions and tasks using their own data. This would gather their ‘real-life’ experiences at every iteration, allowing for developers and technical staff to maintain constant contact with the people for whom the systems are being designed.

CIT has proved highly effective because it combines ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ perceptions. This means we don’t just check on the customer’s ability to execute, but we also gauge sentiments: Does the customer feel we are facilitating their task efficiently and giving them what they need to get it done? Do they have the assurance that once completed, they have got it right?"

Rogan Clarke, Director of Digital Change, Inland Revenue

SOLUTION

Employing the ethos of shift-left engagement, Assurity developed an early Design Engagement model, strengthening the voice of the customer in the delivery process. ‘Shift-left’ seeks to find and prevent defects early in the software delivery process, improving quality by testing earlier in the software development process.

Assurity engaged in Agile sprints to define key functional areas to expose the IR product to the identified customer segments such as tax agents, individuals, and businesses. A security-controlled Beta environment was created to support customer engagement, with key objectives and user stories.

“The model we gravitated to was CIT, which gives us the ability to incrementally gauge progress across functional points as we developed them. The background process is highly incremental, with blobs of functionality steadily added. Involving customers directly with each point of progress is a great method to do a reality check from an ‘outside in’ perspective.”

Getting customers involved, Clarke notes, turned out to be easier than initially imagined. “There’s a genuine interest in participating. The fact is everybody needs to deal with tax, and we found that the people we reached out to were generally very willing to play a part in getting it right,” he says. Assurity gathers feedback in sprint reports on design issues, defects, observations, and customer experience.

With the CIT design from Assurity, Clarke says IR was provided with an easy mechanism for individuals to log in using existing myIR credentials. Customers were allocated a timeslot and asked to sign on to the Beta environment to achieve a task goal, using their own defined data.

RESULTS

Through CIT, thousands of end-users were engaged, providing detailed management information on customer interaction. As a result, Assurity has helped IR identify hundreds of design improvements for resolution in advance of system testing.

A significant volume of design changes were identified and implemented, positioning IR services for positive public feedback. Clarke says customers have enthusiastically responded to early engagement resulting in an amplified participation and awareness of the service outcomes.

He credits CIT with underpinning a basic philosophy of compliance at IR. “We want to make it fast, easy and convenient for customers to do their tax. This drives up compliance and it means we don’t have to be an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff trying to restore people to compliance. Doing that is exceptionally wasteful, for the individual and for the tax authority.”

The development of all IR’s digital channels, he adds, has mirrored the ‘shift-left’ approach, making it far easier for people to stay connected with their tax position in much the same way a quick login to internet banking works.