Revenue solves taxing internet problem

15 Jul 2004

It is true that most of us simply cannot conduct our daily work efforts today without email or the internet. The refrain “How did we survive without it?” has echoed down through the past decade across most working environments. Along with the luxury and convenience of email and the internet has come the daily deluge of spam and hacker attacks.

But there’s another threat embodied neatly in the phrase ‘information anxiety’, which both organisations and their workers the world over are struggling to conquer. It’s the information dilemma that most IT managers and workers face every day.

Struggling with an endless source of information and a channel, or flood of communications, has placed an emphasis in organisations of ensuring that email duplication through copying and forwarding is eradicated and that all information is relayed in the right context to the people that need it most.

As well as this, moving beyond the structure of simply receiving and sending email has brought back into vogue terms such as ‘collaborative working’ that were fashionable three to four years ago.

“Organisational efficiency, and hence productivity, is highly dependent upon correctly managing the flow of information,” states Mike Thompson, principal research analyst, Butler Group. “The answer doesn’t just reside in the blocking of inconsequential messages, it lies in taking the information within those messages and creating intelligent pathways down which personalised relevant information can flow, unhindered by the detritus of irrelevancy.”

In this spirit, the Irish Revenue Commissioners has embarked upon an ambitious plan to create a working structure around which all 7,000 of its employees spread across 130 locations will access an internal portal, or intranet, known as RevNet. This will be their primary source of information, whether it’s for accessing news, online learning tools or legislation on customs and excise or vehicle registration tax.

The Revenue Commissioners is globally acknowledged for leading the charge in terms of e-government innovation. The agency’s celebrated Revenue On-Line Service is credited with collecting around €5bn annually from 300,000 businesses and self-employed workers around Ireland. In recent months, Revenue deployed its ‘Profiler’ technology with Accenture, a knowledge integration application that probes multiple data repositories and displays knowledge as a single, holistic web. It goes beyond basic web search engines by enabling Revenue executives to see relationships between pieces of information that they never knew existed.

The new RevNet portal, which is customised for individual divisions within Revenue, was deployed by Computer Associates (CA) and its design partner Strata3 using CA’s CleverPath technology, which allows organisations to boost the efficiency of internal and external communications and achieve an average return-on-investment upwards of 600pc and can support up to two million users at any one time.

Matt Brennan, country manager for CA in Ireland, says that the technology integrates information into a personalised, intelligent and engaging environment that can be accessed from practically any web browser. “The Revenue Commissioners is one of the largest employers in Government, and is renowned as a technology innovator. It has to tackle more than 31 million emails annually and a lot of that is duplication. From a cost perspective, return on investment will be achieved by organising and driving new efficiencies in internal workflow,” he notes.

Revenue Commissioners communications officer Allen Finnegan explains: “At the moment we are still rolling out the technology and engaging in change management. Because there are so many legacy systems to accommodate, it will take time to integrate it all. However, because the portal will include a search engine, it will help to speed up the accessing of vital information. The aim is that going forward, this will be the first thing that Revenue workers will switch on in the morning and it will be their primary source of access to information in the future as well as access to the systems we operate.”

Finnegan explains that much of the information currently stored on the website is largely structured around employee guides and instructions for handling tax affairs in a similar structure to the Revenue’s flagship site, “We’ve constructed a particular element called Revenue Guide, which takes all the previous paper-based instructions on most tax matters and procedures and puts them into a structure suitable for the internet. As well as this we’ve purchased access to databases from Eircom and Golden Pages to add to the content of the site as well as important information on human resources, travel expenses and training and also a large number of links to our library service,” he adds.

Finnegan says that collaborative working and use of the intranet portal will help to eradicate duplication of email. “The problem with an organisation this size is that there’s huge potential for duplication. With RevNet we aim to cut down on large numbers of emails.

“There are some 15 different divisions within Revenue and we want to ensure that the information workers from these divisions access is relevant to their job. We are looking at potential collaborative working techniques for the future and are piloting aspects of this, such as self-publishing to the site and the posting of minutes of meetings. At present each division has the ability to publish within a limited framework on the RevNet portal,” he says.

“The hope is that timely access to information and communications in a structured fashion will make things easier for the individual and remove the flotsam and jetsam of communicating information across large divisions,” Finnegan concludes.

By John Kennedy

Pictured at the launch of the RevNev intranet were (from left): Allen Finnegan, head of communication, Revenue Commissioners; Seamus Shortall, systems analyst, Revenue Commissioners (seated); Matt Brennan, country manager, Computer Associates; and John Mitchell, sales director, Strata3.