New IRS office brainstorming pilots to modernize IT, go paperless

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The IRS’s new modernization arm will design a series of pilot projects simplifying business processes and taking the agency paperless to improve the taxpayer and employee experiences.

While the Enterprise Digitalization and Case Management Office is still establishing its priorities, philosophically the digitalization side is about reducing paper volume at the IRS, increasing access to “enormous amounts” of machine-readable data, and training employees to use that information, said Mitchell Winans, senior adviser within the new IRS office.

That begins with digitization — using scanning or transcription technology to ingest and store analog information digitally — and ends with a paperless agency, Winans said during a recent ACT-IAC event.

“We’re going to be maintaining a test and learn approach, particularly early on,” Winans said. “I think we’re probably going to identify some specific use cases and try to take some targeted approaches on that just to see what we can learn about improving that experience for that particular customer or for that particular IRS employee.”

The office’s business process reengineering will be focused on eliminating outdated ways of doing things and replacing them with a transformation suite of digital tools and digital ecosystems for taxpayers and employees.

Winans is only four weeks on the job but is already thinking about change management approaches in his new role.

“There still is room for improvement when it comes to exploring, adopting and integrating different tools or technologies into our day-to-day activities,” Winans said.

He’s particularly interested in improving the adoption of innovation across the IRS.

The diffusion of innovation theory proposed by Everett Rogers holds that innovations spread through organizations based on their relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, triability, and observability. By innovating around business problems, rather than simply introducing the latest tech or bot, Winans hopes to add a human element into the adoption process that ensures any new automation or artificial intelligence tools are useful to the IRS.

“We always joke that we don’t have technology problems,” Winans said. “We have people problems.”

The EDCMO intends to be an agile office that scales pilots yielding positive results and already procured a Pegasystems platform for case management. IRS casework currently spans more than 60 aging, largely siloed IT systems.

“Ultimately, you cannot improve case management without improving the digitalization of paper records,” Jeff Tribiano, deputy commissioner for operations support, said in the July announcement of EDCMO. “To reflect the importance of this area, we decided to establish this new office to help focus our efforts on moving forward.”

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ACT-IAC, Enterprise Digitalization and Case Management Office, IRS, Mitchell Winans, Pegasystems
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