One step forward...

Thomas R. Temin

Enterprise Architecture 1.0 is an apt name for the latest IRS modernization blueprint. In adopting it, the agency says it is only at the threshold of updating its systems. In fact, modernization projects already under way and conforming to the last so-called final blueprint, Blueprint '97, will have to be redone to bring them in line with Blueprint 2000, as 1.0 is also called.

Further, the agency acknowledged that redoing the already started projects will delay them and drive up their cost.

Don't take my word for it. It's right on Page 8 of the executive summary. 'Each current project will be brought into alignment with the Enterprise Architecture, recognizing that there generally will be a cost and schedule impact to achieve full alignment.'

So what sounded like progress when the IRS announced its newest blueprint is really a fresh reboot of the project.

Architecture documents are rarely easy reading. But one message comes through loud and clear in the executive summary of the IRS plan: What the agency needs now is consistency'in leadership and, more important, in agency structure and mission.

In basically dismissing the earlier enterprise architecture, authors of the latest one cite the fact that since 1997 the agency reorganized into four distinct business units. That bipartisan effort was aimed at improving service to the taxpayers, both individuals and businesses. The four-IRSes-in-one model is fundamental to the new blueprint. If that were to change, the whole endeavor would fall apart and the agency would drop back to square one.

One thing about the IRS is that it has never failed to complete its yearly mission, however kludgy its systems. When tax rates and rules change, as they often do on a political whim, workers deep within the agency succeed at making the necessary code changes. The current crew of modernizers recognizes that this flexibility must exist in new systems.

But as the Bush administration and Congress start fighting about tax cuts, they should not reorganize the IRS yet again, lest they consign another modernization strategy to the round file.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: [email protected]


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