IRS equipment frees up hands

The Internal Revenue Service has purchased a versatile piece of mainframe software that
is helping the agency cut operating costs without having to reprogram any of its taxpayer
correspondence applications.


The multipurpose software for IBM Corp. MVS, VSE and DOS/VSE operating systems lets IRS
users modify mainframe print-formatted files before sending them to the printer. The
software, developed by Harris Group Inc. of Baltimore, is called TransFormer.


''It's basically a parameter-driven utility,'' said John Smith, an IRS information
systems employee in the Philadelphia service center. ''You're not writing code but setting
parameters, dropping in the steps that you need performed.''


The benefits of this versatility are many, Smith said. Even with aging computer
programs, there are immediate savings from resequencing large print files or adding
optical mark reader codes to take advantage of newer, more efficient paper-handling
equipment.


Two or three years ago, the IRS service centers operated as ''cut-sheet shops,'' Smith
said. After installing TransFormer, the centers were able to change to continuous paper
feeds to run IBM 3900 series laser printers and inserter equipment more efficiently.


''That in itself paid for the software in a matter of months,'' Smith said.


The IRS soon will test TransFormer with existing postal discount software, which
guarantees proper addressing and presorting by ZIP code. ''We've already achieved a high
level of discounting with automated sorting,''Smith said, but the agency would like to
reduce its dependence on sorting equipment for even greater savings.


The TransFormer software provides interfaces to U.S.-certified postal discount software
packages from several vendors including Pitney-Bowes Inc., Bell & Howell Co. and Group
1 Software Inc. in Lanham, Md.


''It's very expensive to go back in and write those interfaces to a legacy system,''
said Christopher Cochran, federal region manager for the Harris Group. "TransFormer
generates the necessary interfaces between print-formatted files and postal discount
software on the fly," he said.


As a result, Cochran said, the print-formatted file comes out already bar-coded and
presorted, ''and the customer doesn't have to go write those interfaces to get the postal
savings.''


Several other possible uses for TransFormer are the subject of current discussions
within IRS. For example, it might be possible to give taxpayer notices and documents a new
look without going in to change hard-coded text.


Even more savings might be realized by using only a few standard-sized window envelopes
and reformatting mailed documents to display recipients' and return addresses in the
windows. Plain paper could replace impact-printed forms for further savings.


The Harris Group sells TransFormer software licenses, with training included, for
$45,000 to $60,000 on General Services Administration schedule.


Contact Christopher Cochran of the Harris Group at 410-235-0305.


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