This process of modernization represents a daunting task that will require many years of dedicated activities to fulfill the mission. Moreover, given the rapid change in technology and the continuing restructuring of government and society, the modernization process must now be thought of as an evolutionary process.

For the IRS, this is an effort of unprecedented complexity, requiring it not only to transform daily operations, but also to learn how to design, develop, and integrate sophisticated information processing systems. Large-scale, multiyear development projects require good technology, but more importantly, they require good management practices and procedures. Consequently, the committee has concentrated on recommendations to improve the IRS’s ability to modernize, while monitoring that modernization process. Even if the IRS stumbles and develops a capability that is not exactly right for the purpose intended, it is the committee’s hope that the IRS will learn how to determine that for itself and correct such problems in the future. This report, then, focuses on the overall modernization process of the IRS and provides advice on how to reduce the risks associated with such a large effort.


The committee believes that “success” starts with a concise business vision, a well-organized modernization process, a clear systems architecture, a complete development plan, and a strong set of metrics to determine progress. Without these elements, there will certainly be no success; TSM will degenerate into a collection of individual projects that are poorly integrated, with inadequate privacy and security safeguards, and that may or may not be able to cope with increased tax return processing. If these elements are in place, progress toward specific goals can be measured and technical risks can be reduced, although not eliminated.

Throughout the review period, the committee has queried the IRS repeatedly on the status of each of these critical success factors and has suggested improvements as needed in each area. This report culminates that process by discussing where the IRS has indeed achieved success in each of these areas and by providing recommendations on how to improve areas in which success has not yet been achieved.


Much of what the IRS has had to accomplish as part of TSM are basic organizational and attitudinal changes that should have been part of its structure and culture years ago. Although progress may seem slow, the IRS has made significant organizational strides that can improve its ability to manage the development of a large information system. Significant accomplishments, responsive to previous Computer Science and Telecommunications Board committee recommendations, include the following:

  • Distribution of a concise business vision document;1


A business vision defines the overall goals of an organization (i.e., how the organization will conduct its business). It does not refer to a distinction between government and commercial organizations.

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