IRS tries piecemeal approach to modernization

The Internal Revenue Service has fundamentally changed its strategy for modernizing its decades-old systems and technologies, said Richard Spires, the IRS’ chief information officer. The IRS plans smaller projects more frequently and gathers unified support from its information technology and business sides.

The IRS released a new five-year strategy for modernizing its business systems and steering IT investments. The IT Modernization Vision and Strategy aims to improve services and tax law enforcement, Spires said at an Input breakfast today.

Many IRS data systems are relics from the 1960s. To update them, the agency created the Business System Modernization program in 1999. Since then, BSM has guided strategies and looked to update systems in huge chunks that often spanned several years.

Spires said in December 2005 that the IRS would unveil the updated strategy because the BSM blueprint was getting stale. “We really needed to refresh our strategy of how we are modernizing the IRS,” he said.

The IRS now has a different approach to renewing systems, he said. “I think it really is a good-news message.”

Business and IT leaders help prioritize projects. They plan for smaller, incremental projects delivered more often, while using the existing systems when possible. They also want to regard the investments as a portfolio instead of individual projects, according to Spires and the strategy documents.

Spires said the business side of the IRS believes that “IT is the strategic way in which everyone can drive higher productivity.” He added that business leaders now would rather invest more in IT than people.

The IRS will institutionalize the process of annually analyzing its strategies and direction, he said. “This is something we need to keep current,” he added.

The new strategy will simplify the IRS' IT instead of adding to existing systems, Spires said.

"That will be the true win here, if we can make that happen," he said.

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