Inland Revenue: which methods were used and why

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Inland Revenue

The Inland Revenue is United Kingdom’s tax collection department and also responsible for collection of national insurance and administration of tax credits to working families. It employs over 60,000 staff in more than 600 local offices and was one of first public sector organisations to outsource its IT with its partnership with EDS now running for more than 5 years. Track record of success in delivering public sector IT projects is second to none and today’s challenge is to continue delivering to time, cost and requirement whilst meeting the needs of increasingly sophisticated customers in our local office network.

Background to TRUMP

Paying detailed attention to usability throughout the lifecycle has become an accepted part of the Inland Revenue’s business development process over the last three years and is seen as playing a pivotal role in helping our drive to deliver useful, usable business systems. That situation is a direct result of previous work done between IR/EDS and NPL on the MAPI project, also funded by the EC. Our usability process and techniques are all based on that work and benefits have been evident to all especially in how we now see acceptability from a different angle, quality in use, rather than just time, cost and requirement./p>

EDS build users into their IT lifecycle

EDS IR Division use their own System Lifecycle Rapid Application Engineering (SLC/RAE) method to deliver IT. Rapid Application Engineering approach with responsibility shared with IR. Facilitated Workshops drive the process and empowered end users support those workshops. Iterative and incremental development with Tool support for the process.

IR then built in usability alongside by...

  • Business prototyping
  • Window Design
  • User Based Evaluations
  • Performance Measurement.


There is no magic formula that says "users involved equals useful, usable business system" and both IR and EDS not convinced we were doing all this work at the right times in the lifecycle, using the right methods and the right people. Also the processes were running in parallel rather than being integrated and felt we were also weak in setting and designing to a usability requirement.

We are using TRUMP to do better

Firstly to establish a benchmark to improve from and highlight those areas of improvement that would give us the greatest business benefit. But also to ensure we achieve a formal fit with the EDS IT lifecycle, use the right techniques at the right time in the development lifecycle, are able to specify usability requirements and gather data on the costs and benefits of usability.

Maturity assessments - First Maturity Assessment

Assessments carried out by Lloyd’s Register. Interviews with IR/EDS staff including those working on the trial project (Compliance Quality Initiative) in January 1999 and February 2000. Findings from the first assessment gave us a baseline to improve from and met one of our main aims but also enabled Serco Usability Services to produce suggestions for refined usability techniques to fit within the development lifecycle.

ISO 15504 capability levels

  • level 0 Incomplete - processes not effective/li>
  • level 1 Performed - processes carried out and effective
  • level 2 Managed - within quality, time and resource requirements
  • level 3 Established - carried out as specified by organisation, resources defined
  • level 4 Predictable - carried out within predicted resource and quality
  • level 5 Optimising - reliable tailoring to requirements

Plus a clear view of usability within IR/EDS


  • user centred information exists, but not always at the right time or in the right place
  • usability requirements are either not documented or documented much too late
  • working smarter in JADs is the key to a more user centred design for IR and EDS/li>


  • building usability into the development process is not always managed or established.

Plus ways to improve

  • Extend and integrate the user centred design methods employed at the early lifecycle stages
  • Identify and document context of use and usability requirements in the business requirement
  • Employ more task based methods in the Joint Application Design (JAD) workshops and be clearer on what we are asking the users to do
  • We see JAD’s as the engine of the Production stage of SLC/RAE and made that & documenting context of use and usability requirements as our absolute priorities./li>

So before JADs we...

  • Used context analysis to scope who will use the system and what tasks they will undertake
  • Produced task scenarios to cover all the main tasks
  • Set a usability requirement for those tasks
  • Produced a preparation pack for each function that collated the context analysis, task scenarios, IT requirements and design thoughts so the business share a common view of what they need to deliver from the JAD.

And in JADs we...

  • Focused on real life task scenarios
  • Used different prototyping approaches to design windows
  • Managed the issues
  • Made more use of Corporate and Industry guidelines
  • Tested the paper mock-ups using the task scenarios.

And after JADs...

  • Used an IT functional prototype to validate the emerging design
  • Testing the business system against the usability requirement.

Our experience of using the methods was that they were almost all very beneficial.

Second Maturity Assessment - Headline Conclusions

  • Significant improvement in all areas
  • IR/EDS strong in the "core" areas of context, requirements, design and evaluation
  • Evaluation rated as outstanding
  • Higher assessor confidence in results
  • "A step change in the awareness and practice of human centred design within IR/EDS.

So returning to our original aims

We established a benchmark to improve from, highlighted those areas of improvement that would give us the greatest business benefit, achieved a formal fit with the EDS IT lifecycle and at the same time ensured we used the right techniques at the right time in the development lifecycle. Finally we now have the capability to specify usability requirements and have gathered data on the cost benefits of usability.

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