IRS' IT reorg strives for unified view, fast dividends

The reorganization 'allows [the] service delivery organization to focus on service delivery. In the past, they had to do different things.'

'Deputy CIO Art Gonzalez

Zaid Hamid

It may have taken the IRS a long time to improve the way it delivers services to taxpayers, but its recent management reorganization should pay dividends immediately, officials say.

The IRS has pared layers off its management organization, strengthened program management and eliminated the operational gaps between its two applications development organizations by combining them.

The changes should be completed by next month and drive a single view of its Modernization Information Technology and Security Services, or MITS, said CIO Todd Grams.

The tax agency has been overhauling its IT management organization based on business needs to increase the probability that large projects will succeed on the first try. The reorganization also aims to better coordinate delivery of its IT services to IRS employees and tax professionals.

IT weaknesses in the IRS' business modernization projects have resulted in part from management burying responsibility for applications and services in layers of its management organization, or spreading them across many units.

'That led to inherent conflicts. The push to production was winning out over the discipline of how to do it right,' Grams said.

Looking up

'If your shoes are on fire, you're going to look down. What we've done with these organizations is that their shoes are not on fire any longer so they can now look up,' he said.

Grams removed the IT services components, such as enterprise services, from administrative divisions to stand alone and report directly to him.

'An organizational chart by itself isn't going to fix anything, but it can remove some barriers,' Grams said.

He combined management of all enterprise service functions, such as architecture, lifecycle, configuration and requirements into one unit.

'That allows [the] service delivery organization to focus on service delivery,' said deputy CIO Art Gonzalez. 'In the past, they had to do different things.'

Under the reorganization, the IRS plans to combine business systems modernization and business systems development into the single Application Solutions organization.

The new office should better coordinate major IT projects as the projects move out of development and the IRS takes over operation, Grams said.

Integrating BSM and BSD should also smooth out the inconsistencies in an application's performance that occurred when they were separate organizations.

In previous years, large IT projects were put in the BSM portfolio and small-to-midsize projects were in BSD.

The combined Applications Solutions will drive the IRS to one annual IT portfolio with explicit priorities and projects to fit the modernization strategy. The same unit also will be responsible for most of the costs to operate applications once they have passed through development and are in production.

'It will be a more coordinated delivery to the customer. Through this organization, we'll be able to treat an application as one product instead of six or seven unique component deliveries,' Gonzalez said.

The IRS is studying a proposal from IBM Corp. on what the Applications Solution organization should look like, based on models in industry and best practices. The IRS will decide by the end of the year on the organization model, Gonzalez said.

Grams also has begun hiring 200 technically skilled IT staff members after a two-year freeze.

An example of what an employee would see that's different is the equipment support help desk. By increasing the job grade of IT staff people who answer the help desk phones, the IRS can pay a higher salary to attract more technically experienced staff capable of resolving more problems on the first call.

'Not only is your customer happy, but you're not tapping your resources out in the field,' Grams said. 'When they have to go out and touch a machine, that ought to be for more complex issues than something that [can be] handled over the phone.'

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