HMRC seeks “visionary” data exploitation director as part of big data plans

Written by Rebecca Hill on 14 February 2017 in News
News

HMRC is advertising for a director to lead its data strategy and help personalise customers’ interactions with services, as the tax authority reveals more details of its behavioural insights work.

HMRC wants a big data expert to drive the authority's new data strategy - Photo credit: Flickr, Robert Scoble, CC BY 2.0

The role of data exploitation director, a senior civil service pay band 2 job advertised at £140,000, will report in to the director general for customer strategy and tax design Jim Harra.

The new recruit will be responsible for developing a data strategy and policy, establishing a system for mastering customer data across HMRC and overseeing the design of data architecture for the department.

They will be expected to develop and embed data standards, prioritise a system of programme management and work with departmental analysts to increase innovation in policy, risk and operations.

HMRC’s job advert called for a “visionary data leader” with passion and drive who is “motivated by the challenge of delivering data enabled service transformation at a massive scale”.


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The recruitment drive is part of HMRC’s efforts to make better use of its data, with the advert saying that data is currently collected and analysed over long timeframes, which is limiting the pace of change.

“Through transformation HMRC will seek to collect and apply data analysis to more rapidly collected data sets, delivering more responsive data and customer insight that informs the services and development of policy," it said.

This role will be focused on improving data-driven decision making in the department and using data to personalise customers’ interactions with the tax authority.

Meanwhile, the department is also working with the social purpose company the Behavioural Insights Team to use behavioural sciences and the data it holds to improve its services for certain companies.

A spokesman for HMRC said that it was working with the team on a number of ‘test and learns’ to target communication more effectively.

“We recognise HMRC is in unique situation given the data we currently hold about businesses. We are exploring how we can proactively use this data to identify companies that meet acknowledged growth criteria,” he said.

According to the industrial strategy green paper, this will include making better use of data to identify, target and evaluate support for scale-up businesses – for instance by using VAT returns to identify fast-growing firms – and improve targeting of potential exporters.

However, the HMRC spokesman emphasised that the department would not be sharing information on individual companies.

Instead, he said, it is “testing how we can target messaging and timely support to businesses, working across government to support growth within the wider economy”.

HMRC’s increased focus on data comes as the government has published its transformation strategy, which includes a section on how the government can make better use of data.

This includes appointing a chief data officer within the Cabinet Office, expanding the government’s set of authoritative lists – called registers – and easing restrictions on departments sharing useful data with each other.

Much of this relies on the new rules set out in Digital Economy Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, although it has come under fire from privacy groups for lacking clarity on how data-sharing will take place in practice.

There are also concerns it will encourage government to continue using bulk data transfer instead of focusing on innovative ways of sharing only the relevant data.

The transformation strategy, however, does acknowledge the importance of ensuring that data-sharing is proportionate and of gaining the public’s trust.

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