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Tuesday, May 18 • 11:35am - 12:05pm
Saving the Economy From Ruin (with a hyperscale PaaS)

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Government IT projects are infamous for being lengthy, costly and delivering unstable services that crash under load. This is an experience report of how all these norms were reversed, resulting in the rare event of positive press coverage for a normally heavily-criticised public sector department.

In March 2020 the United Kingdom went into lockdown, causing the most brutal recession in living memory. The Government had to react quickly, with policies to help citizens and businesses cope. These included:
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • The Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • The Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.
Once these initiatives were announced, the UK’s Tax Department (HMRC), needed to encode these policies as digital services, capable of dealing with huge spikes in traffic. And it had to be designed, implemented and delivered in a matter of weeks.

This session shares the story of how such a rapid and effective IT response was achieved. It will include the foundations that made it possible, and the architecture, delivery principles, working practices and organisational structures that enabled hugely successful outcomes.

At its centre is HMRC’s Multi-channel Digital Tax Platform (MDTP) - which employs Continuous Delivery at scale - and began development in 2014. It is a cloud platform for over 130 user-facing applications, powered by over 1000 microservices that have been built as part of HMRC’s ‘making tax digital’ strategy. It provides an easy way for teams to build and deploy applications that can scale to handle millions of requests.

The platform and services needed to deliver financial support to more than 12 million employed and self-employed workers via the three schemes outlined above. In just a matter of weeks, the team was ready and the platform withstood 67,000 job claims within half an hour of the Job Retention Scheme going live. It also handled 440,000 applications for government grants via the Self Employment Income Support Scheme on the first day of its operation.

This is a powerful story of how the right combination of culture, technology and focus can empower a large organisation to pivot fast and efficiently, resulting in the rapid delivery of digital services that are user-centric, maintainable, performant and resilient.

avatar for Ben Conrad

Ben Conrad

Head of Agile Delivery, HMRC
Ben Conrad works as Head of Agile Delivery on the Multi-channel Digital Tax Platform. Since joining HMRC nearly 4 years ago, he has migrated with the platform away from London and to the new HMRC Regional Hub in Bristol. In the days when we asked DevOps engineers to come to work in... Read More →
avatar for Matt Hyatt

Matt Hyatt

Technical Delivery Manager, Equal Experts
Matt helps organisations to build, scale and mature their agile delivery capability. Having cut his teeth in start-ups and scale-ups, Matt took a brief detour into traditional commercial banking, where he learnt how not to build software. He’s since spent half a decade advising... Read More →

Tuesday May 18, 2021 11:35am - 12:05pm BST
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