IRS puts its money on ITIL

In the early 1990s the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) faced a major crisis. The tax administration found itself in the midst of a revolt from taxpayers who wanted more reactive and streamlined services.

“In the IT arena in the U.S. there is a lot of pressure on IT service management coming from our customers [and] our constituents to perform in a much more focused way where we’re accountable for the business results,” Ralph Wooden, a division information officer with the IRS, told delegates Thursday at a Frankly Speaking seminar hosted by IT World Canada Inc., parent company of, in Ottawa.

In an effort to satisfy their customers, and U.S. Congress – which began to establish legislation supporting the demand for change – IRS officials began to implemented the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

First recognized in the early 1980s, ITIL is an international set of process standards that – among other things – introduces planned spending and increased customer service delivery to an organization.

“Our central problems included issues where our customers were dissatisfied with the service they were getting, our providers felt they were stretched beyond their capabilities, and our technology in some cases had been maxed out in capacity,” Wooden said during the morning seminar. “We had a lot of issues we wanted to tackle. We saw that the service management methodology of ITIL provided us with a tool to do that effectively.”

Implementing ITIL

Wooden said the best way to introduce ITIL into an organization is to look at the area of IT “where you are feeling pain” and where you can obtain results that are visible and measurable. That is the area where you should make improvements first and then implement the strategy on a wider scale from there.

“There are strategies out there where people have tried to undertake implementing the whole ITIL structure,” Wooden said. “I wouldn’t recommend that.”

Wooden also stressed that executives and senior management must buy into the idea. After that, educate and market ITIL to the rest of the organization.

“Education and marketing was very important as we went forward so that people understood why we were doing this, what we hoped to achieve, and what their role was,” he said. “We engaged a broad cross section of people all the way from front line technical support, [to] various levels of management and the executive ranks.”

So did the ITIL model work for the IRS? Wooden’s satisfaction with the practice is hard to miss.

“In the first year, we achieved over a 10 per cent cost improvement,” he said. “My experience has been that the ITIL framework and the right tools can help you address the challenges and seize the service management opportunities.”