Mazei molds IRS facelift

As we approach the new millennium, one of the most critical jobs at the Internal Revenue Service involves managing a multibillion-dollar program that will help the tax agency—notorious for its salty customer service and obsolete technology—become a friendlier, state-of-the-art work place.

The man poised to do the job is Al Mazei, assistant commissioner of the IRS' Program Management and Architectural Office. Mazei was hired in November as the point man to manage the Prime Systems Integration Services Contract, commonly known as Prime.

Mazei will plan and direct the purchase and expansion of the information technology for the modernization initiative, which has been dubbed by the IRS as the single largest systems integration project ever undertaken.

Mazei has the gigantic task of managing the 15-year mega deal recently awarded to Computer Sciences Corp. and a team of six subcontractors, including Northrop Grumman Corp., Unisys Corp., Lucent Technologies and Science Applications International Corp.

Because past attempts at modernization have failed, the pressure to succeed this time weighs heavily on Mazei's shoulders. And he says he is ready. "I pretty well thought it was going to be a challenge,'' he said. "You can read in the press how everything is messed up [at the IRS.]''

Mazei said he left his previous job as senior vice president and chief information officer of BTG Inc. primarily because he wanted to work with IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti.

"When [Rossotti] said he wanted to make the IRS more customer-friendly, I wanted to be the person to make it happen,'' Mazei said. "What we have to do is make sure that we make paying taxes easier and proper answers are given to taxpayers who call the agency. Customer service is extremely important.''

Supervising the Prime contract was not Mazei's first job choice when he decided to pursue work at the IRS. Mazei was eyeing the chief information officer position that recently was filled by Paul Cosgrave.

"He wanted my job,'' Cosgrave jokingly said. "There were a number of people who applied for my job.''

In fact, the pool of talent for the CIO job was so impressive that Cosgrave said he was given a directive from Rossotti to choose from that group someone who could manage the Prime contract, which is how Mazei was suggested for the position.

"I felt very comfortable with his level of experience,'' Cosgrave said. "He has years of experience in commercial and integration work.''

Mazei said he expects some major changes at the IRS in the next five years. For example, the majority of taxpayers will file electronically, fulfilling the IRS' goal of becoming a paperless agency. The filing process will be rapid and laced with friendlier customer service, he said.

Mazei said he realizes that the modernization will be a ferocious challenge. That is why he spent his first day on the job reviewing the modernization blueprint and carefully observing the agency's needs, he said.

"There are a lot of heroes at the IRS who are working on antiquated software,'' Mazei said. "We need to help them do their jobs easier. I know that there are ways to make their jobs easier by bringing in modern solutions.''

Mazei brings extensive experience to the job. Before his stint at BTG, he served as vice president of information services at USF&G Corp., Baltimore, which was acquired by The St. Paul Companies Inc. He holds a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from Ohio State University and a master's in public administration with a concentration in information systems from Auburn University. He also worked as a senior executive with CSC Consulting, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Al brings the right mix of management skills and information systems expertise that we need to enhance our service with modern technology,'' Rossotti said. "His appointment is another example of our continuing effort to get the right people in the right jobs.''

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