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Pay HMRC - Alpha Assessment

This service will allow users to make payments to HMRC online via credit and/or debit card.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:
6 October 2014

Assessment stage:
Alpha Review

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
A. Lister

Service Manager:
O. McGuire

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessment Report

The HMRC Payment 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 the HMRC Payment Service is on track to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard at this early stage of development. However it will be necessary to address a number of areas in order to successfully pass a Beta assessment.


User needs
A basic understanding of user needs was demonstrated. The service team will need to address the recommendations below in order to meet the service standard at a Beta assessment.

The team
The majority of the roles necessary for a multidisciplinary delivery team were present. Webops resource is managed as an internally supplied service. The team has drawn upon content design expertise from GDS and the wider HMRC resource pool.

Security, privacy, tools and standards
An accredited CLAS consultant is working closely with the team, using the same approaches and methods as the core tax platform.

No end to end testing has happened with the fully coded production-like service.

The team is able to draw on the correct people, however the absence of a dedicated content designer and front-end developer may prove challenging as delivery cadences are productionised. HMRC’s decision not to bespoke the current commercial components of the service has resulted in some inflexibility but an HTML5 API will be made available early next year. It was also recognized that the current commercial service does not meet basic WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards.

Assisted digital and digital take up
The service team know that their users are often time poor, and in need of confidence and clarity, and understood that assisted digital users are even more likely to be so. Although the service team are still quite early in their thinking about specific assisted digital support for this service, an outline approach and plan for user research for these aspects was identified, and understood to be essential for progression to Beta on GOV.UK.

The service had some early thoughts on a digital take up plan, and were expecting data on comparative channel volumes within a few days. General cross-HMRC plans for winding down non-digital channels where possible were referenced, but it was acknowledged that a more service-specific plan would be required to meet the service standard at Beta assessment.


User needs
It’s vital that the opportunity to create a service that better meets user needs isn’t lost. To do this, future user-research needs to be conducted with a broader range of users with ‘real’ code rather than flat HTML wireframes.

Specifically, before the service returns for a Beta assessment, it’s essential that:

  • stronger user stories are developed
  • a ‘real’ fully coded service is used for testing
  • a broader, more representative user research sample is recruited
  • user research is not weighted towards the user satisfaction questionnaire at the end of the service
    all paths through the service are evaluated - including those which include, or conclude with, error messages/pages

Research into the current service is needed. This will help the team:

  • understand the current user experience and its challenges
  • quickly identify potential improvements for early development

The team
Separation of the webops function from the core team is a concern. This needs to be challenged with the objective of securing dedicated webops support for the service. Similarly, content design needs to be integral to development and not a ‘finishing off’ exercise.

Security, privacy, tools and standards
For the Beta assessment, the components identified as open source need to be made available.
A coherent and actionable approach to service downtime is required. This includes communication with te GOV.UK service desk.

The prototype presented was flat HTML. Although the design was largely consistent with GOV.UK requirements it’s essential that the actual working code is presented at future assessments. We would also expect to see the service working well on a range of browsers and devices.

We would like to see the HTML5 version of the current commercial interface, until then more needs to be done to bring the current component up to standard.

Accessibility and assistive technologies have not been considered. Based on experience with a broad range of digital services, the assessment team recommends that future iterations adopt a baked-in approach to accessibility. Retrofitting for assistive technology users is complex, time-consuming and inevitably, a compromise.

The team will need to discuss with the GOV.UK team how start pages will work for the service.

Assisted digital
The service team should carry out specific research with assisted digital users of their specific service (including those with the lowest skills among their user base) to discover their numbers and their needs of assisted digital support. The service team should design a model of assisted digital support based on the research, and test and iterate it to ensure the support is meeting user needs and volumes.

The service should develop user personas for their assisted digital users and be able to explain their user journeys through the service, including estimated numbers of assisted digital transactions for each channel required.

The service team should be able to explain plans to ensure assisted digital support for their service is both sustainably funded and free to the user. Assisted digital support should be clearly visible to users from the start page of the service.

Digital take up
The service team should contact the digital take-up team at GDS to review planning and ensure all is being done to reduce avoidable non-digital contact from potential users using non-digital channels to contact HMRC about the service.

For a technical-change led project, it is critical that the service manager has a strong understanding of the KPIs of the system being replaced, and how that is expected to change with the replacement system.

The assessment team was encouraged by the progress made to date and content that the service is on the right track. It’s clear that strong foundations have been laid for an outstanding digital service. However, it’s essential that recommendations outlined above are implemented to ensure that this service fully meets user needs and realises its potential to generate operational and financial savings

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 No 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 No 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 No
11 No 12 No
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 No 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 No
21 No 22 No
23 No 24 Yes
25 No 26 Yes