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The IRS advocates better case management

For the IRS, taxpayers are cases too. That makes case management a vital function in helping people solve problems or get their questions answered. Over the years, the IRS has amassed dozens of case management systems. Many have long teeth. Last year the agency set up an office known as Business Digitization and Case Management. Its task is to consolidate and modernize the management of the distribution. Federal Drive with Tom Temin addressed co-director Justin Abold-LaBreche.



Tom Temin: Now there is a syllable in your office title that caught my eye. And then I read a little bit and found out that it is an important syllable. It is digitization and not digitization. And that means something in the context of your work. Tell us about that syllable.


Justin Abold-LaBreche: Absolutely. So I think I should start by saying that my office, Business Digitization and Case Management, is unique in that we have two directors or co-directors. I focus on the case management part. But I want to virtually introduce you to Harrison Smith, who is my co-director, he focuses on digitization, and the example that he likes when he talks about digitization is when using he talks to his relatives on the phone and he's trying to understand something to help them, he will just say , "Hey, take a picture of what you're looking at and send it to me so I can see the same thing and walk you through it." And that's an example of taking a sheet of paper and sending an image and digitizing it so we have it. But there is a limit to what you can do. Because then that image is difficult to analyze, it becomes difficult to extract the data and take the next step. So digitization is about taking the next step. And to be able to take advantage of what has been digitized or create a digital native process to incorporate that data, so that we can harness that data and use it to transform our business processes. And for us, that means providing better taxpayer services.


Tom Temin: Now on the case management side, I noticed that it appears that the IRS has about 60 case management systems of varying age and different bearing capabilities and technologies. So how are you going to streamline all of those and what is the goal here for them?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: That's a good question. Yes, we, like many large companies or many large government agencies, have a history of information technology that goes back decades. And as we move forward, depending on our funding, we have been able to improve systems or create new systems. But as a result, we like that many people have a very large legacy IT infrastructure, including our case management area. We have more than 60 legacy case management systems, as well as a large number of spreadsheets and databases and associated tools that our business clients have used to improve their service delivery. But there comes a time when you need to rationalize all of that and say that they are out of date, that they don't talk to each other. If a taxpayer travels from one part of the IRS to another, so to speak, we want to be able to travel with them so that the transfer is seamless. And the taxpayer, when they meet the next person in line, doesn't have to start and explain everything they just told us all over again. So we have a very big initiative, business case management as part of our IRS integrated business modernization approach. And what I have to do on behalf of the IRS is create an enterprise platform, we are using Pegasystems as a leading out-of-the-box, low-code, no-code business platform, case management platform, and to modernize and migrate all those business processes. found in those legacy case management systems and incorporated into business case management. And when we do that, do it in a way that allows employees to have access to the data they need and should have access to appropriately,


Tom Temin: Now you make the distinction between individual accounts and business accounts because those are divisions within the IRS itself?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: In fact, my project covers all individual taxpayer cases, business, taxpayer cases, international, everything that flows through the IRS that needs a case management backbone, we will get through the management of business cases. Now we will do so with strong role and action-based security to adequately protect information, but we will do it in a way that allows our employees to access the correct case information when they need it to resolve it. Whether it's an individual or business taxpayer, a non-profit organization, or a tax-exempt bond.


Tom Temin: We are talking to Justin Abold-LaBreche. He is co-director of the IRS Office of Case Management and Business Digitization. How important to this endeavor are some of the other efforts that are going on at the IRS, such as the ongoing element of the CADE customer account data engine, I suppose I would add CADE2, maybe three or four by now, to get some of that legacy encoding. In the age of relational databases, do you need to complete it before you can complete your work?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: Well, I mean, the first thing I want to say is that the IT organization at the IRS is great ... And they are still a really strong technology backbone, and they are working with a really challenging environment here. And then the work in CADE, CADE2, to be able to update that database and make the data more accessible. It is extraordinarily important not only for work at ECM, but generally throughout the IRS. What I think is a real strength of how we approach modernization here at the IRS is that instead of having sequential projects that push the modernization time frame far, far into the future, we can run multiple modernization projects in parallel. Which means that on the case management side, we are focused on delivering new applications as soon as possible. And in some cases we may have dependencies on other parts of our modernization efforts. And in many cases, we are coordinating to achieve the right time. Or we could have an alternative solution, as if we knew that some other part of the modernization is going to mature within a year. So we sequence what we're doing in case management to tie into that in a really smart way.


Tom Temin: And as you integrate all these case management systems into one, I guess, virtual one using this low-code platform, are you also streamlining processes so that you don't just end up? The old expression is paving the CALPADS.?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: Yes, that is exactly what we are doing. I wish I could take credit for that vision. But it actually predates me, one of my colleagues, Brad Bouton, who worked alongside one of the previous CIOs, and they really recognized that the opportunity here is not just the introduction of new technology, the opportunity is to figure out how to take full advantage of it. take advantage of what that technology will allow us to do and the services it will allow us to offer. So when we incorporate a business process into business case management, it actually begins with business process modernization and we use a combination of different modernization approaches. We have customer-centric design, design thinking, and certainly some aspects of Lean Six Sigma. So we have a wide variety of methodologies. We adapt them to a particular process and say:


Tom Temin: And most business filers, I would say that probably all business and corporate filers file electronically. And most individual taxpayers still do, but there are still persistent tens of millions of people filing on paper to this day with the IRS. Is there a way that those records can somehow be instilled in this so that case management can apply to those people who could have shipped paper packages?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: Absolutely yes. That's one of the main reasons why business digitization and case management sit together in one office, like we do, is because that piece of digitization is essential to broad service delivery. But certainly for my work and case management, it is essential to help bring in waste paper and ensure that we can provide the same level of service in ACM, paperless case files, but be able to convert that paper into digital format, and I believe that I I would put a plugin on now to really encourage everyone to take advantage of our electronic presentation, we have a variety of ways that people can do that. So if that's something that works for you, go for it, it certainly makes the process run smoothly.


Tom Temin: And do you think having this electronic update of all case management systems could, in turn, allow for better service through call centers, which has been a challenge?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: Of course. We are working to introduce business case management in a call center environment. We want to do it intelligently, because it is very important for the provision of our services in general. So we are taking good steps forward at a moderate pace to make sure we integrate it well. And that works both for the employee, but it has that impact that you are talking about, which is the service that is offered to the public. And given the fact that it looks like people are going to be telecommuting now, who knows, maybe another year, it's hard to tell.


Tom Temin: Given the fact that it looks like people are going to be telecommuting now, who knows, maybe another year, it's hard to know if there is a remote and mobile component to what you plan to implement in case the people who Are you dealing with the public that uses the case management system not located in an IRS facility?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: That's absolutely one of the benefits of being in business case management with paperless case files, it's the virtualization of the workplace, but it's also important for revenue agents who are in the field speaking. with taxpayers and their workplaces. or tax officers who visit taxpayers again, in the field of their place of work, of their home, to be able to solve problems, it is important that they can also access business case management without problems. And that's another aspect of the paperless case file and virtualization that is important to our service offering.


Tom Temin: And how did you get into this job? Does it come from the enterprise architecture side? The coding side of TI? The management side? What is your angle here?


Justin Abold-LaBreche: Oh you know what, I got to that really out of business. And that I think is a source of strength. Because I had the opportunity to work with the IRS for 10 years, I loved working for the Internal Revenue Service. It's a great place, people are committed to helping others. I had the opportunity to work in the four major operating divisions, I was able to see what the business looks like across the IRS. I think it is a source of strength at work. But of course it means that I have to be a really good partner with our technical subject matter experts on the IT side, the architecture side is very important to what we are doing so that we can give ourselves the right handrails to move this around. move forward in a manner that is consistent with the overall IRS vision.


Tom Temin: Justin Abold-LaBreche is Co-Director of the IRS Office of Case Management and Business Digitization. Thank you very much for joining me.


Justin Abold-LaBreche: It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting us, I love talking about this. And I know my co-director Harrison and I would love to come back any time. We are doing a good job here. It's making things better for employees and taxpayers are talking to us at any time.


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