E-commerce is a management puzzle, experts say

E-commerce is a management puzzle, experts say

At roundtable, IRS CIO says agency has 'the most popular nonportal Web site' as April 15 nears

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

SAN DIEGO'Seventy-five leaders from government and industry last month heard a rousing call for electronic business at the first executive roundtable held by the Association for Enterprise Integration.

The sessions preceded AFEI's 21st Century Commerce Expo 1999.

The bottom line for government, the panelists said, is that agencies need to change attitudes as much as'or perhaps more than'they need to change hardware.

Paul Cosgrave, the IRS's chief information officer, said electronic commerce has transformed the tax process. During the month preceding the April 15 filing deadline, for example, the IRS Web site is 'the most popular nonportal Web site,' drawing more than 1 billion hits, he said.

The agency is aggressively promoting electronic filing of tax returns, with a goal of having 80 percent of income tax returns filed online by 2007, he said. With 45 million American households having PCs and 80 million Americans having access to the Internet, that should be attainable, he said.

Of the $1.7 trillion collected annually by the IRS, $1.4 trillion comes in via some type of electronic funds transfer, he said.

Another goal is to cut the cost of processing each tax return to less than $2. The only way to reach that goal is through an e-business approach, Cosgrave said.

The agency faces several obstacles, in-cluding working out the details of partnerships between the IRS and companies, assuaging security concerns, and resolving engineering issues.

Public-key infrastructure technology, which the agency is testing, will help overcome some of the obstacles, Cosgrave said.

On the engineering side, year 2000 remediation gave the IRS a convenient excuse to replace 'just about every PC,' he said.

'Technology is the least part of the problem,' Cosgrave said. 'It's very much a problem of enterprise integration. Technology is the easy part; everything else is a problem.'

In a subsequent panel, Lou Krantz, deputy undersecretary of Defense for logistics, agreed that more than technology stands between the conception of an e-commerce operation and its implementation.

'We do have a big challenge,' Krantz said of the Defense Department's efforts to move logistics to an e-business model. 'We have made a lot of progress but we have a long way to go. DOD did invent the Internet, and we are happy to exploit it.'

Jeffrey Plotnick, vice president and general manager of supply chain solutions at Computer Sciences Corp., agreed that DOD is changing.

'The most impressive project, to me, is the Army Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program,' he said. The Army is shifting a system based on 22 million lines of Cobol code'and that costs $34.5 million per year to maintain'to modern systems.

Two teams of contractors are bidding on the project'one headed by CSC, the other led by Lockheed Martin Corp. The service plans to award the contract Dec. 27, Plotnick said.


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