Interview: Phil Pavitt, CIO, HMRC

By Derek du Preez
22 Feb 2012 View Comments
HMRC CIO Phil Pavitt

“It is always a challenge to get the business to adopt an IT strategy. But now that we are starting to see results, I’m increasingly under pressure from the business to move the project along and speed it up,” he says. 

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“It’s interesting being in meetings where my own 13 Machines strategy is quoted at me and I’m sitting there thinking, hang on a minute – I wrote that. 

“There are also two other government departments, although I can’t say which, currently writing their own version of this. The private sector doesn’t do this either, but it needs to.”

Pavitt indicates that because of 13 Machines, HMRC will be “tendering a lot less than it ever did before”.

It will now only be tendering for point solutions, such as a new data warehouse, because, according to Pavitt, it does not currently have a sufficient warehouse on the IT estate. This will be done over the next 12 to 18 months. 

Savings have also been made through better negotiations with suppliers – in particular, the £2.8bn Aspire contract that HMRC struck with Capgemini in 2004, which is set to run until 2017 and covers a majority of the organisation’s systems.

Pavitt manages these negotiations by using third-party quotes as leverage in order to obtain value for money. 

“I operate a tripartite mechanism at HMRC when it comes to contract renegotiations. If we have a new piece of business with our supplier, we give it to them for a quote. We then take that quote and find a cheaper one from an equivalent organisation,” explains Pavitt. 

“We often have to pay that organisation to quote for us because it will never win the business, as Aspire is an exclusive deal, but we then take that quote back to our supplier and demand it matches it. This has begun to reduce our cost.”

Pavitt also has strong opinions about the government’s cloud strategy, labelled G-Cloud, which was released at the end of last year.

G-Cloud outlines how the public sector will adopt a “public cloud first” approach, where departments have to look to the public cloud as the first option for deployment, and aims to save as much as £340m between now and 2015.

Pavitt says that G-Cloud is now a practical guide for departments across the public sector.

“What I like about the G-Cloud strategy is that it has gone from being a theoretical, hopeful idea that we have been talking about for five years, to a plan that details what applications will be in it, how we will access it, how we pay for it and how we measure it,” he says.

“For example, in the end-user space, which I look after, I now know I don’t have to worry about collaboration and co-ordination software for desktops, because that is going into the G-Cloud. So we are finally getting demarcation about who is doing what.” 

However, Pavitt has reservations about how much the public cloud first policy will be applied to HMRC due to the high security requirements that inevitably come with collecting taxes and issuing benefits. 

“The use of public cloud definitely depends on where you are in government. The words public cloud and HMRC will not easily be seen in the same sentence,” says Pavitt. 

“We have to recognise the uniqueness of what we do around tax and around providing benefits – that there is a level of security the taxpayer would expect. 

“So I think that exploiting the cloud will depend on what the department in question does. Within HMRC the cloud is going to be about exploiting it within our perimeter – with private cloud. 

“One size doesn’t fit all, especially in government.”


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