IRS takes ownership of modernization projects

'It's not that we weren't doing these things before, but we've taken them to the next level.'

'IRS' Richard Spires

Rick Steele

It's a short distance from the IRS' business systems modernization office to its business systems development office, but the agency has traveled a long way to move its applications from one to the other.

With its business systems modernization finally on track after years of fits and starts, the IRS assumed ownership for two projects from its lead contractor, Computer Sciences Corp.

When the IRS takes over operation of a system, it moves management of the application to the business systems development office from the modernization group that includes CSC.

A restructuring of its IT organization will combine the two applications divisions into a unified Applications Solutions division, eliminating the potential for management gaps.

Absorbed projects

The IRS took over the tax professional e-services project during the summer and the Integrated Financial System late last month, making them part of the fabric of IRS' IT organization.

At the same time, the IRS is assuming integrator responsibility for its modernization contracts from its contractor due to budget reductions, while CSC focuses on developing the applications, such as its taxpayer relational database, the Customer Account Data Engine.

The IRS has been maturing its processes, such as requirements, configuration and risk management, to better manage its modernization projects, both in development and in operation, said Richard Spires, associate CIO for the business systems modernization office.

'It's not that we weren't doing these things before, but we've taken them to the next level by bringing into the program hard lessons learned from running the business systems modernization program and [industry] best practices,' he said.

IT projects weren't meant to stay indefinitely with the contractor, said Jim Sheaffer, CSC vice president and general manager of the prime alliance of contractors.

'Part of modernization was to improve the capability of IRS to manage and execute programs and projects,' he said.

The few modernization projects that CSC previously handed over to the IRS were smaller applications, such as Where's My Refund?, designed for tax filers to track their refunds, Sheaffer said.

The recent transfer marks a significant step for the agency.

'The key to moving a system into the IRS IT organization is to adequately juggle risk and make the transition seamless,' said Curt Turner, director of business systems development.

The best approach is to make sure the IRS' personnel who will have ownership are involved in project development, Turner said.

'Knowledge transfer is not something that occurs when the transom opens. It's something you have to invest in early on,' Turner said.

The IRS put in place a transition management plan at the earliest stages of the IFS and e-services projects that involved individuals from business systems development and other organizations, such as enterprise operations and end-user support, Spires said.

'So when business systems modernization handed over e-services to business systems development, it was not a momentous event,' he added.

For its financial management system, the same person who directs the division accountable for IFS in business systems development was detailed to business systems modernization as IFS program di- rector during its development, Turner said.

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