IRS to update modernization plan

The Internal Revenue Service will unveil an updated modernization strategy in March 2006, implementing lessons the agency has learned in recent years, an IRS official said today.

The plan will replace the current business systems modernization (BSM) blueprint, which was developed in 1997. That blueprint "was getting stale," said Richard Spires, associate chief information officer for BSM at the IRS. "We really needed to refresh our strategy of how we are modernizing the IRS."

The emerging strategy emphasizes short-term and long-term goals, said Spires, at a breakfast sponsored by market research firm Input.

On one hand, the BSM program will focus on delivering new functionality in key areas of IRS operations or business domains in short order. Rather than taking three or four years to deliver a fully developed system, as the IRS has done in the past, they will look for ways to provide incremental return on investment in just a year, Spires said.

On the other hand, short-term decisions will be made with long-term goals in mind, he said. The IRS has developed concepts of operations (ConOps) to describe how each IRS division expects to operate in the future. Those visions will guide all near-term decisions, he said.

The ConOps represent a significant change in thinking. "We have come a long way from where we were just a few years ago," Spires said.

The new modernization strategy will reflect a handful of principles developed by a team of executives from across the agency.

For example, IRS officials have learned that modernization investments must be driven by business priorities, not technology goals, and that the modernization effort must be led by IRS officials running the operations, not by the IT organization.

Likewise, the IRS cannot make all its decisions with the Government Accountability Office and IRS Oversight Board in mind.

“We don’t do this simply because we have to respond to oversight," Spires said, noting that at any one time as many as 13 different audits of IRS systems are being conducted. "We do this because it’s the right way to plan and manage our overall business and IT transformation efforts.”

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