CSC says it can meet IRS deadline for financial system

CSC's Jim Sheaffer

Henrik G. de Gyor

Computer Sciences Corp. anticipates that a new financial system it is building for the Internal Revenue Service will be ready for its scheduled October release, despite a warning from the IRS Oversight Board of possible delays.

The Oversight Board, which released its annual report early this month, said IRS is making progress in implementing its Business Systems Modernization projects, but warned of continued risks of cost overruns and slipped schedules.

For instance, CSC missed major milestones in delivering the Integrated Financial System, so the release was pushed back from April to October. "That date may be in jeopardy," the board's report said.

Jim Sheaffer, CSC's vice president and general manager of the Prime alliance of contractors working on the modernization projects, said CSC will start in September converting files of old accounting data from the legacy financial management system to the new Integrated Financial System. He described the process as a rolling implementation that will occur throughout the fall.

"We're looking at a scheduled go-live process that will begin when we start converting the Master File data at the IRS in September, and then we'll end in early November when they close their books, and they are ready to do full transaction processing for the remainder of the fiscal year," Sheaffer said.

CSC won the 15-year contract, initially worth $5 billion, in December 1998 to modernize the IRS business systems and process, which includes revamping IT systems as well as re-engineering certain operations.

To keep new projects moving forward, IRS has hired Mitre Corp. of Bedford, Mass., to review schedules, cost and functionality for future modernization projects to determine if the assumptions are realistic, said IRS Chief Information Officer Todd Grams.

"I'll have a third party that's taking a look at this and can give me a level of comfort that what we are committing to is reasonable, and we don't commit the same type of error that we made in [the Integrated Financial System] when we promised people we would deliver this in a year," he said.

After CSC experienced unexpected data conditions, IRS pushed back from April to October release of the Integrated Financial System. Grams said that he was disappointed that he could not get the system out when he said he would, but he learned through a Mitre study he commissioned this year that the agency had unknowingly set itself up for failure with the original schedule.

The study showed that large financial companies took an average of 28 months to implement the SAP financial management software, and implementation could range from 20 months to 40 months.

"Part of what has gotten us into this problem ... is that we were totally unrealistic in the expectations that we set for ourselves and our stakeholders," Grams said. "We have got to be more realistic and learn from others in terms of how long it's going to take to do the things that we're signing on to do."

IRS will start to use the financial system in early October. "It's like a rolling implementation. The data conversion will go on a little beyond that," Grams said.

IRS will complete its first month close of books, the monthly financial statement required of all agencies, Nov. 10, he said.

Mary Mosquera is a staff writer with Government Computer News. She can be reached at mmosquera@postnewsweektech.com.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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