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EXCLUSIVE - Digital services delivered- Reinventing the Australian Taxation Office

EXCLUSIVE – Digital services delivered- Reinventing the Australian Taxation Office

What are the key initiatives you are driving within your department at the moment?

The ATO is transforming the way it operates; in 2015 we released a blueprint for our Reinvention. It describes the future experiences that the community will have with us, and ‘going digital’ is a major focus.

Under the banner of Reinventing the ATO, Contemporary Digital Services (CDS) is working on over 60 digital initiatives. These range from large foundation pieces, to specific improvements for particular client segments.

Reinventing and CDS supports the Australian Government’s Deregulation and Digital Transformation Agendas. We’re working closely with the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) and other government agencies, users and private sector partners to create services that are simpler, clearer and faster.

What is your and your department’s focus for the next 1–3 years?

Reinventing the ATOis a comprehensive program to bring a service-oriented focus to our business – reflecting what the community wants from us, an easy, quick and seamless experience.

We’re working with the community to find the best technologies to use, so we deliver digital services they need and want. By making it easy to interact with us, we hope to boost trust, confidence and voluntary participation in the tax and super system and so contribute to the economic and social well-being of all Australians.

Our ‘priority themes’ in CDS are:

  • Improving identity and security

  • Building contemporary online tools and services

  • Integrating with natural systems

  • Establishing the foundations for an integrated client account

  • Supporting clients to transition

  • Stabilising our environment

And projects under these themes are focussing on:

  • Developing new solutions, so clients can choose from a suite of credentials that seamlessly support transactions across all roles and services from any device. For business clients, this includes supporting the creation of a whole-of- government account for businesses (similar to myGov for individuals), trialling the ability to link ABNs to myGov accounts, and working with software developers to enable secure client lodgements, without clients needing their own credential.  

  • Delivering digital options for all high-volume services and expanding our offer of mobile optimised services.

  • Building an online environment where clients can manage all of their roles in one place, including those for which they have third party authorisation.

  • Embedding services into software and other third party systems to streamline and automate reporting obligations, e.g. payroll events.

  • Increasingly delivery of services via third parties (eg software, banking, point-of-sale).

  • Progressing law change so all clients able to transact digitally are required to do so (Enabling Digital by Default).

  • Connecting staff with technology that simulates the client experience.

  • Providing clients with tools and services, that help them to navigate and use our digital services, whilst supporting and engaging with the community that cannot transition to digital.

Michelle Crosby

Michelle Crosby talks about digital transformtion at the ATO

In terms of what you are currently working on –what is the outcome you are looking to achieve?

We want to establish ourselves as a global leader in the administration of tax and superannuation, recognised for our contemporary service, expertise and integrity. Reinventing the ATO is how we’ll achieve this; by transforming how our clients experience the tax and super systems.

We will underpin this through significant cultural change and improvements for our staff. We are:

  • building a culture that embodies our values and transforms the client experience

  • simplifying interactions, maximising automation and reducing costs

  • connecting with the community and other agencies in meaningful ways

  • influencing policy and law design for more certain outcomes

  • using data in a smarter way to improve decisions, services and compliance

  • reshaping our workforce to optimise capability and performance.

The delivery of contemporary digital services is critical to achieve this. We have already delivered a range of digital products and services that have changed the way our clients do business with us. We are building our capabilities so that we continue to provide a consistent, coordinated and enterprise wide approach to digital service delivery in the future.

How does it impact the citizens/community?

These changes look to offer benefits to the community, by offering an easier and more seamless interaction with government.

In line with the Digital Transformation Agenda, we are complying with the DTO’s Digital Service Standard. This outlines 13 criteria that Australian Government digital services must meet so our services are simpler, faster and easier to use. Meeting the criteria means we can consistently design, build and deliver high quality services and satisfy our users’ needs:

  • Services that are: 1) real-time with 24/7 access, 2) enabling visibility of all tax and super affairs, 3) providing confidence and trust, 4) using natural systems and data and 5) integrated

  • Timely support, education and advice on tax and super obligations

  • Responding to and processing registration, reporting and payment of obligations

  • Easier compliance by reducing regulatory burden

  • Seamless, consistent transactional services for the community

We are engaging and consulting with the community as we develop and drive new initiatives, so we are sure we’re fulfilling their needs and are offering sufficient support and guidance as they’re released.

What is the timeframe for completion?

There is no specific timeframe for completion. We are already working from the Reinventing blueprint and expect to deliver changes progressively over the years ahead. Some have already happened, others will happen in the near future and other changes will take longer – and delivery will be influenced by many factors, including legislative direction, finance and our work with other agencies.

Our plans will evolve as community expectations change and new opportunities are presented through technology.

Ultimately, the true measure of success of our reinvention will be client satisfaction and participation in the tax and super systems.

How is the CDS program of work being funded?

The CDS program of work is funded by a mix of government funding for initiatives such as Single Touch Payroll and internally funded for work, where we are driving and improving client experiences and outcomes.

The 2015–16 ATO budget provided $254.7m over four years from 2015–16, to support the initial implementation of the Digital Transformation Agenda. This includes $95.4m to fund the operation of the DTO as well as funding for the projects that form stage one of the agenda.

Digital technologies will eliminate or automate a range of simpler interactions, thus allowing staff to focus on value-added services that promote compliance.

Are you the first in market or is there another government agency or other countries that are embarking on similar projects?

We are working very closely with other Australian Government agencies and private sector partners to produce and develop these initiatives.

Our work will integrate change across government, supporting the effective delivery of whole-of- government services, and support the transition of clients to a digital-by-default environment.

Voice authentication, for example, was implemented in September 2014 and is the largest and most advanced in Australia. In fact, it’s one of the most advanced voice technology implementations in the world. This technology allows clients to verify their identity over the phone, and on our app using their voice. This technology offers a more secure, and much more convenient, call, and online experience for our clients.

We have been externally recognised for our voice authentication solution. We won the National Innovation award in 2015 at the Auscontact Association awards in Sydney. We were also recognised in the Australian Business Awards – for Outstanding Achievement through Innovation for Voice Authentication.

Work is underway to make voice authentication available across government.

Is this a standalone project or done in collaboration with another agency?

As mentioned above, we are working closely with other agencies to develop digital solutions and services.

While CDS and the projects under its umbrella are part of Reinventing the ATO, the drivers for improving and expanding our digital services go beyond what is documented in the Reinventing blueprint.

Improving the digital services we offer, and the experience our clients have, is something the whole Australian Government is working towards. The DTO was set up to lead this and work with all government agencies.

We work closely with the DTO and other Australian Government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services (DHS) to deliver a whole-of-government business and technology architecture that will simplify service delivery and make access to government services more convenient. The DTO created a network of Digital Transformation Coordinators in every agency to ensure a whole-of-government approach.

How will you determine ROI for this project –are they any matrices in place?

Our digital transformation is already well underway, and we are already seeing the benefits of reducing paper transactions and red tape for the community.

The Digital Service Standard requires regular reporting on 4 key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the ongoing performance of our service:

  • User satisfaction– are users happy with the service you’ve provided? This is determined using web metrics and user research

  • Digital take-up– the percentage of your target take-up audience that you have reached

  • Completion rate– the percentage of completed transactions out of started transactions

  • Cost per transaction– the total estimated cost of your service per month (this varies for some services) divided by the number of completed transactions.

In addition, the DTO has other metrics that our service needs to measure and monitor to understand how we are performing:

  • error rates

  • time to completion

  • costs, benefits and return on investment

  • content metrics (readability, length)

We are working with the DTO to ensure we align any new and redesigned services with the Digital Service Standard.

By embedding and complying with the standard we will consistently provide high quality services, satisfy our users' needs, and protect the integrity of our services”.

What are your thoughts on innovation, the future direction of technology and government transformation?

Digital technology is rapidly evolving. We and other government agencies will need to be flexible in order to adapt.

We need to understand what tax administration will look like in 5–10 years when digital will be a way of operating and is ingrained in an organisation’s business model and processes.

It is impossible to predict what technology will emerge but we need to be in a position to leverage opportunities and respond to risks and threats quickly.

By embedding in natural systems we will change how tax is administered and we want to make it as easy as possible for clients to get things done. Our aim is to offer services where there is minimal need to report or transact with us directly. We’ll need to create a digital by default environment for clients to interact with us (irrespective of legislation).

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