Procurement

IRS dishes on IT procurement strategy

Harrison Smith, IRS, photo courtesy Government Matters 

Harrison Smith of the IRS. (Photo courtesy of Government Matters)

The IRS is leaning on industry outreach to communicate the agency’s long-term IT procurement strategy and eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks for large, multiyear IT purchases.

Harrison Smith, deputy chief procurement officer at the IRS, told Government Matters on Sept. 3 that the agency wants to return to holding at least one industry day per year as it looks to potentially overhaul its IT architecture and implement cloud strategies in the coming year. The agency also held a "reverse" industry day in April, where a handful of contractors addressed approximately 250 IRS employees to discuss improvements to the procurement process.

"Talk to us about what drives the cost of [your] business, talk to us about how [you] interpret things that the IRS says, both publicly and within the texts of solicitations as well," said Smith.

Smith said the IRS procurement strategy is guided by what it sees as its four customer bases: the CIO, the American taxpayer, the IRS contracting office and industry. The feedback received from the events has led IRS officials to look at how to further compartmentalize the contracting process to break large IT procurements into "packetized" chunks that can then be split up among staff to avoid creating bottlenecks.

Smith also indicated that presolicitation efforts on certain procurements may actually be discouraging participation, with some contractors telling attendees that they spend anywhere between $5,000 to  $15,000 per page responding to a request for information.

"You see folks looking around the room going, 'Wow, that’s a lot of money that we're spending on these things.' All those costs come back to [the IRS]," Smith said. "What's very important to understand:  Sometimes a long RFI response is worth the cost, but sometimes it's not, so it's really about understanding those unintended consequences."

Among the items discussed during the agency's industry day was its strategy for the cloud. The IRS has come under fire from the Treasury Department’s inspector general and Congress for lacking an enterprise cloud strategy. Two former top IRS tech officials took issue with the IG's findings. The IRS declined to comment for the FCW report on the IRS cloud strategy.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at djohnson@fcw.com, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


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