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Family and Friends - Alpha Assessment

The ‘Family and Friends’ service will allow people to delegate authority to a friend or family member to act on their behalf for digital tax services.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:
18 July 2014

Assessment stage:
Alpha Review

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
S. Edwards

Service Manager:
S. Fhima

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessment Report

The HMRC Family and Friends service (the “Service”) has been reviewed against the 26 points of the Service Standard at the end of the Alpha development.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration the assessment panel have concluded that the Service is on track to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard at this early stage of development.

The panel were impressed by the answers the service team gave, which demonstrated consideration of all points of the service standard. The panel felt that the team are on track to address any outstanding issues during the beta.


The Service is being built to meet the user needs around delegating access to HMRC services to a trusted friend or family member who will act as their representative. The Service is an enabling service that will provide functionality for a wide range of services being built on the HMRC tax platform, many of which will be accessible through the Tax Account in development for individuals. The Service is not aimed at users who may be representing a taxpayer in a professional capacity, those needs are expected to be met by the Agents Online Self Service exemplar.

The Service for online delegation of authorities will grow and will eventually replace eventually replace existing manual HMRC processes for delegation to non-professionals. It is important to highlight that the service team are not merely digitising the existing process but instead they are building a digital by default service to meet the user needs for delegated access to HMRC digital services.

The service team are a strong multidisciplinary team based in the HMRC Digital Delivery Centre and are led by a Service Manager who is empowered to make changes to the Service. The Service Manager also has a deep knowledge of the IDA programme and provides a vital link into that programme, which is a key dependency and is critical to the success of the Service.

The service team are supported by a strong governance model which appears to be ensuring that there is a good sharing of information with other HMRC services and also ensures that there is support from senior management to remove any blockers to delivery.

The service team have conducted user research across a wide range of potential users to help them to develop their user needs and learn from other existing services. User research has ensured that the service has changed rapidly during the alpha and the assessment team saw examples of how the Service has changed significantly as a result of user research.


  • The team should continue their user research and should supplement their current approach with a high level mapping of the user landscape. This will help ensure that the service team have a clear view of the context in which the Service might be used, where this sits within the customer lifecycle, and to understand the relationships between users of the Service. This will require user research that is not focused on day to day testing but will ensure that the implications of design decisions can be fully tested with users.
  • The assessment panel understand that the minimum viable product  for the Service is for the delegating user to grant access to all of their HMRC online services and not allow delegation of individual services. The service team must consider carefully, in the light of further user research, whether this is an appropriate minimum viable product for the beta or whether individual delegation should be included.
  • The Service requires the user who is delegating access to know the name, date of birth and national insurance number of the person they are delegating access to. The assessment panel accept that the service team must work within the limitations of matching users within the existing HMRC systems, however, the assessment panel would urge the service team to consider carefully whether matching can be achieved without sharing such personal details, in particular the national insurance number, and to test these approaches with a range of users.
  • The service team have already tested different names for the Service and the language around the process of delegating accessing to a friend or family member. This work needs to continue as there are already multiple terms in use to describe the users and the action of delegating access. The team should also bear in mind that this is an enabling service for other services, and the language used may need to vary based on the underlying service and the needs of those particular users. It may be that the Service does not need a separate brand from the HMRC service it is supporting as the user may see this as merely a function of the tax service they are accessing.
  • It is encouraging that the team are working closely with the assisted digital lead at HMRC and with the GDS assisted digital team, so that support for assisted digital users is being considered in the broader context of other HMRC services and cross government assisted digital provision. Before the beta assessment, the team must fully research assisted digital user needs and put in place and test proposed support through all relevant channels. User research must include assisted digital users who are unable to use or access the online service independently.
  • The service team must give early consideration to how they will open the source code for the Service to ensure that any small parts of code that should be kept closed are factored out of the source code from the outset. This will avoid refactoring work later in the project.
  • The Service has potential application and user research findings which would be helpful across Government services outside HMRC. The assessment panel would urge the service team to publicly blog about their work on the Service, in particular their user research findings, so that they can share their findings with colleagues across Government. The assessment panel recommend that the service team escalate any blockers to publishing blogs promptly through their internal governance process.
  • The service team will need to investigate ways to use their analytics package to measure conversion rates for the full process (i.e. from when the user starts completing the form to request a helper to when they finish accepting the request; or vice versa).

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes