IRS Rapid Procurement and Funding Wins Demonstrate the Power and Value of RPA

Over the past few years, the IRS has changed its external reputation and internal culture of an agency that does not take technology risks.

The Pilot IRS program is perhaps one of the best-known examples of this external evolution, reaching out to suppliers to bring innovation and new approaches to procurement.

Internally, the use of robotic process automation in procurement and finance offices has strongly influenced the culture of the workforce.

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Over the past few years, the IRS has changed its external reputation and internal culture of an agency that does not take technology risks.

The Pilot IRS program is perhaps one of the best-known examples of this external evolution, reaching out to suppliers to bring innovation and new approaches to procurement.

Internally, the use of robotic process automation in procurement and finance offices has strongly influenced the culture of the workforce.

Shanna Webbers, assistant deputy commissioner for operations support at the IRS, said a combination of short-term gains and agency-wide collaboration contributed to two major shifts.

Shanna Webbers is Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support at the IRS.

“Technology allows our staff to do other things or things they may find more interesting, rather than just mundane, repetitive tasks. That’s really what we want to do. We want to create an environment where our people want to come to work, where they’re excited to come to work, where they feel like they’re bringing enormous value to carrying out our mission at the IRS,” Webbers said on Ask the IOC. “How can we create that and beyond just upgrading and scaling into areas where human resources are tied to technology or robotic process automation? We really look at the whole person. How do you ensure that every individual in the organization has the right skills, experience and knowledge to fill positions of greater responsibility? »

Webbers said that meant changing the way they train the workforce. Instead of focusing 80% of training on the technical aspects of procurement, the use of RPA and automation has allowed the IRS to refocus training to 50% technical and 50% other skills such as critical thinking, writing, leadership and collaboration.

Agency Collaboration

The second initiative to drive culture change is to partner with the agency’s chief information officer’s office.

Webbers said the CIO’s office must give its final “blessing” before the bot can launch, the office provided acquisitions and finance with liaisons to help work through the documentation and security processes.

“We have a process in place where when we have ideas, we submit them, through an intake form, to the DSI and they are reviewed. There is an IT advisory board that makes recommendations on how to move forward,” she said. “If we don’t have the capacity or funding to move forward, the CIO office helps prioritize RPA investments.”

In procurement and finance, the IRS has implemented a small amount of RPA bots so far, but expects to increase the number over the next year.

“We have others who are in the queue at the moment. Over the next six to 12 months, we are focused on implementing RPA which revolves around data reconciliation and management for our manual adjustments for refunds and deposits, which could enable save up to 35,000 hours a year,” said Teresa Hunter, IRS chief financial officer. “There is a significant opportunity. We are a very paper-based organization. It’s just a matter of our IT organization having the capacity and the funding to meet the demand that’s going to come up. The IOC has a big job of making sure we are safe and secure. It’s a balance between having a good relationship with your CIO office and understanding their perspective as well as the business needs.

Hunter, like many CFOs, sees the value of bots for finance operations.

Teresa Hunter is the chief financial officer of the IRS.

She said she encourages staff to take a new view of how they can do their jobs, which areas are repetitive and require mundane tasks that someone has to do.

“We know it saves our staff time and effort,” Hunter said. “As we work on automation, innovation, efficiency effort within the CFO, we are also looking at the skills of our people and how can we hone or reskill them? What are the key areas we want to focus on to ensure our staff are trained to develop and grow in their role as we move forward with some of these shifts and changes? We are not looking to reduce full-time equivalents (FTEs), but we are looking to be more analytical in our decision-making and how we approach the work we need to do so that we can be more successful and how we make decisions, how do we come to conclusions and really get ahead of any kind of audit issues or something like that, where do we really understand our data and our workforce really grows and develops along that path that would lead us into the future of finance and the skills that will be required for people in a CFO organization.

Rely on the innovation team

For Hunter and Webbers, the continued move toward automation and the use of bots will be a balance between enthusing early adopters and managing those who remain cautious about it.

“One of the things that I think helped us with that was just being open to hearing what they had to say about the use of bots. Every perspective was critically important to understanding the risk that might be associated with using robotic process automation on a process that we hadn’t proven so trying to take all that information, let them know their contribution was important, and mitigate the particular risks or accepting those risks, or coming up with a different approach to eliminating the risks, was our approach,” Webbers said. “At the end of the day, because I was in charge, I said, ‘Okay, let’s do “Le, we’ll try to see. Fortunately, it worked very well, and I think those cases where we got those quick wins were important for people to gain confidence.

She said the IRS reviews each RPA implementation to create lessons learned and determine where they can improve the process next time.

Hunter added that the CFO’s office has created an innovation team to which employees can submit ideas on how to automate or improve a process.

“What I wanted to do was get people involved in the process, where, I’m going to steal a quote from purchases, can you tell me what you hate so I can make you like it?” she says. “What are those opportunities that you don’t like to do every day? Let’s take a look at them because maybe it’s possible to do the job in a different way or automate it or whatever be the solution, but there has to be an answer. We’ve been focusing on that as well as the change management part as we think about how we think about our work products. It’s really the state of mind to know how a bot can help me in my everyday life?”

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