IRS CIO: Time for a new team

Internal Revenue Service officials are making a significant changes to their information technology management staff by hiring senior executives with private-sector experience.

The most significant changes come later this year, when a new IT oversight executive will begin reporting directly to the IRS' chief information officer, W. Todd Grams.

Before next January, an associate CIO for enterprise services will assume duties that were previously performed by the leader of IRS' troubled technology modernization effort or by the IT legacy systems chief, Grams said.

The new manager will guide enterprise architecture, configuration management and capacity forecasting, among other

activities.

Modernization and legacy executives should be "focused solely on product delivery, not on operations," Grams said.

Although the new position appears on organization charts as equal to Business Systems Modernization and IT organization leaders, the enterprise services honcho will make sure the two other technology executives are following proper internal procedures for documenting requirements and pitching business cases for modifications.

"If for some reason they deviate from the methodologies, I would be counting on this office to raise that as an issue," Grams said.

The IRS' deviance from established enterprise life cycle methodology is one reason for delays in the $10 billion update to the agency's tax-processing technology, which dates back to the Kennedy era.

Grams has also chosen Richard Spires to succeed Fred Forman, the IRS' modernization executive. They were unavailable for comment, according to an IRS spokesman.

Spires, former president and chief operating officer of consulting firm Mantas Inc., joined the tax agency in April.

Forman will leave the agency in mid-

November, about six months before his nonrenewable, four-year term contract would expire, Grams said.

Grams declined to disclose the duration of Spires' contract. Since April, Spires has been one of four associate CIOs. His current position, which will be dissolved following his ascension as modernization head, was created as a transitional position, Grams said.

Spires' appointment as BSM leader is part of a larger effort to recruit experienced private-sector executives in the upper echelons of the IRS, Grams said. The new associate CIO also will be recruited from outside the government.

IRS officials are seeking to hire three additional outsiders to fill top positions within the modernization office, including a private-sector veteran to lead the Customer Account Data Engine project. Jeffrey Wann, former assistant vice president and chief technology officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, was hired about a month ago to direct the infrastructure function of BSM.

Within the legacy IT division, the end user and equipment support function will see a commercial world recruit become its new boss. Furthermore, the deputy for Terence Lutes, associate CIO for IT services, will also come from the private sector.

"I'm trying to strive for a blend — a fabric if you will — of IRS people who know this institution, who know how to get things done hereand people from the outside, who know how to run large IT projects," Grams said.

Close IRS observers generally approve of Grams' changes.

Fostering collaboration between the modernization and legacy IT systems divisions has long been a necessary resolution, said former Treasury Department CIO Drew Ladner, now president of Zuri Technology. "The trick will be to ensure that the enterprise services doesn't become yet a third silo," he said.

Grams' consolidation of positions could be good, said Jim Flyzik, a former Treasury CIO. "If you have four top notch people who are able to deliver results, that's better than a larger span of control where it would be more difficult perhaps to keep a handle on what's going on," Flyzik said.

RIFing at IRS

W. Todd Grams, the Internal Revenue Service's chief information officer, is the man in charge of change, and the changes he is making at the tax agency are not simply for the upper echelons of management.

Grams said the IRS has been misallocating scarce resources. To correct the problem, IRS officials will reduce the number of employees starting next June.

About 1,000 information technology positions will be affected by the reductions. By September 2005, several hundred employees will receive reduction-in-force notices, Grams said.

Two organizations will be affected: desktop computer and laptop field support and mainframe and printing.

"We made the decision that we can't have an organization where only 60 percent of [our] people" provide services to customers," Grams said.

In addition, IRS' Business Systems Modernization division now has a second set of eyes reviewing the modernization schedule, Grams said.

Since about two months ago, Mitre Corp., the IRS' federally funded research and development center, has been double-checking BSM project schedules and cost estimates.

— David Perera

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