IRS: New effort at modernizing must start fresh

sets six filing goals

Following a decade of failed modernization efforts, the IRS is essentially
starting over, a senior IRS executive said this month.

The last modernization effort was a $3.3 billion failure, said Albert E. Mazei,
assistant commissioner for the IRS’ Program Management and Architecture Office.

Most of its technology is not being used because it did not work, he said during the
Information Technology Executive Symposium at the FOSE trade show in Washington.

In December, the IRS awarded its estimated $5 billion, 15-year Prime contract to
Computer Sciences Corp., which will spearhead the new modernization effort [GCN, Dec. 14, 1998, Page 1].

CSC will assign modular task orders so the IRS can monitor progress and avoid further
failures, he said. Under that contract, CSC will oversee competitions among subcontractors
for which vendor can offer the best solutions, Mazei said.

A stark difference exists between industry best practices and the way the IRS has been
operating, he said. “You don’t have the tools, you don’t have the training,
you don’t have the space. It’s no wonder it failed,” Mazei said.

The IRS has little choice but to modernize its antiquated systems. “The only thing
that has kept the IRS together over the years has been heroes,” he said. “My
fear is those heroes are about to retire.”

The average age of the agency’s employees is more than 45, he said. “Within
five years, many of those people are going to be gone,” so the tax service needs to
implement the modernization quickly, he said.

The tax service is also reorganizing itself. The IRS is working to centralize its
information technology efforts and leave behind its haphazard development practices.
Before late last year, the IT shop had control over only 50 percent of the IT budget. The
other half was under control of specific IRS divisions.

Since October, the IRS has treated IT as a resource, centrally directing 100 percent of
the budget and centrally managing 75 percent of the staff, Mazei said.

“It was totally out of control,” with no standardization of systems, Mazei
said. Last year, for example, the IRS had 67 mainframes at 11 sites that were all
configured differently. Now there are 33 mainframes at nine sites; within 18 months the
tax service wants to have cut that to 12 mainframes at two sites.

The IRS IT shop has also adopted a more customer service-oriented mission statement
that focuses on providing quality information systems to meet the organization’s goal
to focus on customers and let managers be accountable, Mazei said.

One of the biggest issues is creating an agency that can change quickly. That is not
easy, because the IRS is criticized regardless of what it does, Mazei said.

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