Our main goal in digitising services is always to improve things for the customer – making a process simpler and quicker, and putting the customer more in control – but moving to digital has of course also meant we generate a lot less paper. World Paper Free Day feels like a good day to share some of our successes in this area!
I’m Matt Donmall, Senior Project Manager for HMRC’s iForms work – a project that has put all of HMRC’s forms online and is now making them fully digital. Back in September 2013 HMRC had 1,600 paper forms in use. Last month, my team celebrated when we passed half a million online form submissions (in fact that figure is now 700,000). So how did we get from there to here?
Well, when we started I have to say that 1,600 forms seemed like a crazy amount. Did we really need that many forms as an organisation? So we set ourselves the (rather daunting) task of rationalising the whole lot. By removing obsolete forms and amalgamating others, where it made sense to do so, we ended up with just 370 essential forms. Quite a reduction!
The next step was to start digitising them. By February 2014 the first digital form was published and made available for customers to complete online, print and post to HMRC. Nine months later all 370 forms could be completed this way. A great achievement, but we wanted to make the service even better - to make it completely digital from start to finish with no paper involved at all.
So we changed the way we worked. We moved to a standardised way of turning forms into online services – you could call it a ‘forms factory’, but still staying focused on what our customers need. We refined our processes so now services only take 4 – 6 weeks to build, working closely with customers to review and test our design along the way.
Together we’ve created:
- 247 forms which can be completed and submitted online
- the ability to save and go back to forms at a later time
- an online service to track the progress of their form through their personal/business tax account so they don’t have to call us to find out what’s happening (and already been used by 1 million customers over the past year)
- the offer of webchat with experienced advisers to provide real-time help
- a feedback facility so our customers can give their input to improve the service.
All these improvements mean the forms are quicker and easier to complete and get submitted, with no paper and no postage involved. Plus there’s less room for error, and that means we can process the information and act on it faster.
- made the forms available for use on PC, tablet and mobile devices
- ensured they are compatible with accessibility tools
- built in a confirmation service that automatically sends a receipt email with a submission reference number and an estimated timescale for a response.
So far, so good. But we’re still working on ways to make our forms service even better with:
- forms available for Welsh language speakers
- online signatures to remove the need for some forms to still be printed and posted
- a seamless link for customers to make a payment when required following form completion
- automatic processing of some forms using robotics to increase response times back to customers even further.
So we’ve gone from 1,600 forms generating lots of paper to 247 forms that can be completed and submitted online with added benefits of quicker processing times, being able to track progress online, and a contribution towards a world-wide reduction in paper use. We've more to do, but I’m really proud of our progress.
And if you haven't yet, why not visit your Personal Tax Account and see how much you can already do online?