IRS tightens business rules management

The IRS has put in place processes to manage the business rules that drive its new taxpayer database in response to issues that challenged the agency's Business Systems Modernization program.

But the IRS still needs to clarify its plans for using business rules and a business rules engine in future development of the Customer Account Data Engine, according to a recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The IRS has been considering using a business rules engine for its modernized taxpayer database, the Customer Account Data Engine (CADE). A business rules engine is software that selects and executes business rules, such as tax transactions, based on the tax year and tax form.

IRS tested pilot business rules methodology, established evaluation criteria for proposals to acquire a business rules repository, and started the Submission and Settlement Harvesting Project (SSHP) last March.

The SSHP is designed to identify business redesign opportunities for submission and settlement aspects of electronic tax return processing, direct high-level business rule sets to modernized systems and identify architectural alternatives. Harvesting describes activities in gathering, analyzing and validating business rules for a particular area.

The IRS also tested a Business Rules End-to-End Prototype to determine when to use business rules engine technology, programming languages or a combination of the two in implementing business rules within CADE and validating the business rules harvesting approach.

Results of that project determined a business rules engine is not required for CADE applications and should be considered only when certain criteria were met, said Michael Phillips, TIGTA's deputy inspector general for audit, in the report.

'Performance and cost issues still need to be addressed to fully assess IRS' ability to use a business rules engine,' he said.

IRS agreed with TIGTA's recommendations and has completed three of the five recommendations.

'Results of the SSHIP are already helping to shape the ongoing Modernization Vision and Strategy initiative,' said IRS CIO Todd Grams.

The IRS will incorporate the results of the harvesting project efforts to redesign business opportunities and identify associated technical capabilities into its updated modernization strategy by Feb. 1. It will also incorporate criteria for the independent validation of project management work plans by Aug. 1.

The IRS also implemented a management plan for the Submission and Settlement Harvesting Project to establish standards and best practices, performance testing and a cost analysis before making a decision on the use of business rules engine technology in CADE. It will also encourage coordination between the Business Rules Office and Configuration Management Office to clarify configuration management roles and processes for use in the business rules repository.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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