Tax Office ICT Capability

The Tax Office vision for ICP was that it would provide a generic capability that could be configured to include new tax products and processing changes. In essence, ICP has the complexity of a package but is unique to the Tax Office and is supported by Tax Office IT. This is very different from using Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) product where code changes and ongoing improvements are made, tested, released and supported by a specialist software organisation such as Seibel or SAP

The Tax Office has developed a good foundation of knowledge and experience during the period of the Change Program. This must be consolidated now that the primary role of Accenture has been completed.

Recommendations:

  1. The reliance on Accenture to some degree going forward should be advisory so that the Tax Office takes the lead and Accenture supports.
  2. Knowledge transfer from Tax Office staff involved in the Change Program needs to be harvested as does the Accenture ICP enterprise architectural knowledge.
  3. While the Tax Office has developed good solution architecture knowledge of ICP, it needs to develop mature ICP Enterprise skill so that it is capable of assessing the strategic architecture issues that the Henry and Cooper Review will demand.
  4. The Tax Office should develop a process for consulting with Government on implementing new requirements using ICP as a COTS product. This "methodology" and consultation process will be essential to ensure that the generic and configuration capabilities of the Change Program investment are realised.
  5. The Tax Office considers the ICP framework as a strategic asset for implementing changes using a configuration approach. The Tax Office must consider different approaches to release management, testing, operational management and support with ICP and ensure they don't fall back to a NTS process which was based on a custom code approach. This approach should recognise ICP as having the characteristics of a COTS product.

Operational Management of ICP

The Tax Office has been supporting the implementation of ICP releases since 2008. Over that time it has developed a mature ATO Integrated Support Model. While this model is appropriate for new releases and major situation management, it is not something that can be sustained going forward.

Recommendations:

  1. There is a need to consider an operational function that replaces the activities of the Nerve Centre. This "problem avoidance" capability for operational control of the system (not operations management) provides daily monitoring technical and business queues, monitoring and use of the Safety Net, load balancing performance and capacity using trickle batch and other controls.
  2. Performance tuning and monitoring. While the capacity plan indicates that there is sufficient capacity to support Tax Time releases for the next 12 to 18 months, the Tax Office should continue to monitor performance — particularly DB2 which can degrade performance if not optimised.
  3. The Tax Office should minimise the number of eFixes that implemented into production so that risks to business operations are reduced. Ideally the majority of eFixes should be consolidated into planned releases that justify the comprehensive testing that a COTS product would normally involve.
  4. The Tax Office should consider differentiating between ICP configuration changes and ICP code changes. ICP configuration (cFixes) changes should require less testing as they are generally product specific. ICP code changes, especially eFixes should be subject to more rigorous testing.

Enhancements to R3 / ICP

Now that the Tax Office has implemented the full scope of ICP and converted the majority of Income Tax products to ICP, a number of additional investments should be made in the following areas.

Recommendations:

  1. Business rules for ICP are managed through a MS Access database and represent a future area of risk due to the lack of processing controls and versioning capabilities. A COTS Business Rules Management System (BRMS) should be considered as a strategic replacement for the MS Access Database. An industry leading product in this area is ILOG which has been purchased by IBM and will become the rules engine for WebSphere Process Server.
  2. The Tax Office needs to review the relevance of the backlog of Severity 3 and 4 defects that have been stockpiled over a number of releases of ICP. The definition of Severity 3 is that it is a business requirement that has not been met. A review of these defects should be made so that they can be removed from consideration or scheduled into a release.
  3. The Tax Office should increase the controls and instrumentation relating to the operational management of ICP. This include further enhancement of the business transaction reconciliation, MQ monitoring leveraging Omegamon, instrumentation of Trickle Batch. Further enhancement of the Safety Net with consideration of its application for Outbound.