IRS moves to 'clean slate'

Agency kills modernization office and creates new organization to take over

The Internal Revenue Service is eliminating its Business Systems Modernization Office as part of a wholesale reordering within its Modernization and Information Technology Services organization.

A new office called Applications Solutions will replace the old modernization office and the legacy systems development office.

"We're literally starting from a clean slate," said W. Todd Grams, the IRS' chief information officer.

The agency is also creating the new position of deputy CIO and eliminating the position of associate CIO for IT services.

The new Applications Solutions organization will allow the IRS to better prioritize IT development across the entire agency and support modernized systems as they roll into production, Grams said.

One organization led by one person will supervise all projects, ranging from the massive replacement of the aging magnetic tape master file to minor updates of existing systems, Grams said. With separate modernization and systems offices, "we were building these systems without any planning or regard to what was going to happen when they needed to operate," he said.

Consolidating development and operations into a single organization should solve that problem, Grams said. Richard Spires, currently associate CIO of modernization, will head the new office.

Grams has named Art Gonzalez deputy CIO. Gonzalez, who left the private sector to join the IRS as a deputy associate CIO last September, started his new position Aug. 8.

Gonzalez said his biggest priority will be to ensure that the entire IT services organization is acting with a single purpose. "We really are, in its simplest form, a service- delivery organization," he said. "We're not delivering six or seven unique services — they're all interrelated."

Grams and Gonzalez will divide up who takes the lead on ongoing tasks while also delving "back and forth into each other's stuff as we think we can contribute," Grams said. "I can be extremely comfortable that when Art is acting on my behalf, he's making the same kind of decision that I would be making."

As part of the reorganization, Grams has also increased the number of executives who report directly to the CIO shop. "We had 90 percent of our human resources reporting up through one individual," he said. Consequently, executives overseeing some of the most important functions within IT services, such as networks and support for users and equipment, "were buried four layers down in the old structure."

Elevating those functions will allow the IRS to gain a better end-to-end visibility into its planned systems, Gonzalez said. "We'll look at it as an end-to-end initiative instead of just building an application," he said.

A director of security is among the people who will report directly to the CIO shop. Lax cybersecurity at the agency has been an issue for several years. A Government Accountability Office report earlier this year faulted the agency for still not implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity program.

A security executive will continue to report to the CIO shop until the problem is solved, but "whether it remains a direct report or not, I don't know," Grams said.

IRS deputy CIO is not a yes man

Art Gonzalez (right), tapped for the new position of deputy chief information officer at the Internal Revenue Service, has 25 years of experience in information technology management. He joined the IRS last September and became deputy CIO Aug. 8.

Most recently CIO for managed health care company Oxford Health Plans, Gonzalez said he'll bring his private-sector perspective to bear on the IRS' modernization and IT services.

"It's about ensuring that you're delivering value for every dollar that you get," he said. IT organizations sometimes lose sight of the fact that they are service providers, he added.

But providing good service means "you can't say 'yes' to everything. Otherwise, you find yourself overcommitting and being overallocated," he said.

— David Perera

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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