The Internal Revenue Service is using software robots from UiPath to better manage its finance and procurement functions.
In 2020, the procurement division was facing a tight deadline to modify its contract clauses to adhere to recent federal legislation. Using robotic process automation (RPA) , the team executed nearly 1,500 contract modifications in 72 hours, a process that manually would have taken one year. That automation project reduced administrative burden on contracting officers, eliminated data errors, emailed the modification to vendors and then uploaded documentation into the contract file repository.
The IRS CFO office plans to use bots to format financial data and aims to deploy others to perform tasks such as consolidating information from multiple data sources, extracting data from documents, and retrieving data related to property and equipment vouchers.
The IRS is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and one of the world’s most efficient tax administrators. In fiscal year 2020, the IRS collected almost $3.5 trillion in revenue and processed more than 240 million tax returns. Among its top priorities is modernizing the services it provides to the public and using technology to make the IRS more accessible, efficient, and effective for both its employees and taxpayers.
IRS Chief Financial Officer Teresa Hunter: “The agency is making a fundamental shift with robotic process automation technology.” IRS Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support and former Chief Procurement Officer Shanna Webbers: “Both Finance and Procurement are committed to delivering a holistic approach to identifying use cases for robotic process automation and executing across operations for greater time-to-value by transforming lengthy manual processes that take months into minutes of work.”
Hunter: “Our vision for RPA is centered around improving customer satisfaction, increasing efficiency, and enhancing mission effectiveness by focusing on the customer and the employee experience. We want to make IRS CFO a place where people can come to work and have career fulfillment, drive enhanced business decision support, and find value in the things we do. Technology is the future of finance, and automation is an essential part of our transition from our current state to agile finance, which is a center of innovation to meet future needs.”
Webbers: “Having employees who feel valued, empowered and want to come to work is a number one priority. How do we do that? Ask which tasks or process they hate the most or put off until the last minute. If we can automate these aspects of the job, employees will feel heard and know we care about making their work experience more joyful. Our employees are smart, so we should let them drive the use cases.”
The IRS is taking a collaborative approach, recognizing it takes a team effort to achieve automation to the magnitude envisioned. Webbers and Hunter have created a tight partnership with their counterparts in the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
Webbers: “There are a lot of quality industry leaders in the automation space and have been for some years. After a competition, IRS selected UiPath as the software platform for RPA. It’s important for us as leaders to understand the full complement of capabilities UiPath brings to the table so we can guide our staff in making smart decisions in the shortest amount of time possible.”
Automating tasks or processes alone won’t capture the full potential of RPA. Organizations must take a holistic approach by considering people, processes, policies, and technology. Introducing automation into operations will impact how people perform their duties, and the IRS CFO office and the IRS Procurement office are focusing on upskilling and reskilling their employees to work with automation tools. Technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate, more complex legislative demands continue to increase, real-time data is expected, and competition for talent and skills has never been more intense. These represent real challenges to address and real opportunities to pursue.
IRS is pursuing opportunities to leverage existing data and technology and integrate new processes to increase efficiency and reduce overly complex processes; recognize the needs, skills, talents, and abilities of its employees to continue to grow its technical expertise; build on its strengths; and shift from a compliance-based mindset to a decision-based mindset. IRS leadership has taken steps to enhance soft skills among employees such as active listening, problem-solving, and open communication and collaboration. The agency’s focus on communication and transparency in its adoption of automation is key to successful change management.