Expanding Scope into Non-Traditional Areas
As a result of the Revenue Restructuring Act (RRA) of 1998, the Internal Revenue Service was almost completely reorganized. IRS functions that had previously been managed locally, in districts and regions, were now managed nationally with the establishment of thirteen independent "business units" – each based on the type of taxpayer they support or programs they were responsible for.
Agency-Wide Shared Services
Most administrative support was subsequently provided by an organization called Agency-Wide Shared Services or AWSS, which provides support in areas including Personnel, Procurement, EEO and Diversity, and our organization – Real Estate and Facilities Management, or REFM.
To be successful in its support of the other business units in this new organization, AWSS had to model some key elements:
- define each service being offered to establish clear expectations
- work jointly with our customers to establish expectations on quantity, quality, location, and price of services
- place the purchase decisions and funding authorities into the hands of our customers
- establish strong linkages with the operating divisions so that we could better understand and even anticipate their needs
- create "Customer Advocates" between the AWSS functions and the business units to develop and maintain the relationships
Employee Resource Center
One of the first AWSS initiatives was the establishment of the Employee Resource Center (ERC). The ERC was set up to serve as the first and primary method for internal customers to obtain information and request services and products – either through a national phone site or through the IRS intranet. When necessary, customer inquiries are referred to the proper AWSS function for response and/or action. The ERC also performs the necessary follow-up to ensure that AWSS functions respond within established timeframes.
The IRS consists of over 100,000 employees located in 798 offices throughout the country. REFM is an organization of 1,700 employees located in 75 of those offices. REFM is responsible for many administrative programs including site selection and space acquisition; space planning and design; architecture and engineering; building maintenance; personal property, equipment and furniture; records; and administrative mail. Responsibilities and resources include 31 million rentable square feet of space with an annual rent budget of US$680m, US$47m contractor and outsourcing budget, and an US$811m total program budget. Our Mission Statement is quite simply to "provide ‘best in class’ real estate and facilities management services at an acceptable cost to all customer segments".
New, Centralized REFM
Prior to RRA ’98, REFM supported its customers with a very different organization. Seven separate regional organizations managed over 50 field offices and were independently responsible for A&E contracting, space and property acquisition, administrative and budget functions, and facilities operations functions with no centralized reporting and accountability. The national REFM office only established policy and distributed budget dollars. As a result of this organization, service levels and resource efficiencies differed from one IRS office to another, depending upon the office supporting them.
The new REFM is centralized, with more direct program and operational management from our headquarters. Field operations are directed and managed by the Director of Facilities Operations, through five Associate Directors, who, in turn, manage 24 field offices. A further reduction in the number of Associate Directors and field offices is being considered so that overhead positions can be reduced and resources redirected to front-line positions.
We continue to develop national policies and procedures so that "best practices" can be identified and shared, and so that service levels can improve and become more consistent throughout the country. REFM Customer Advocates are encouraged to work closely with their assigned business units to obtain a "hands on" understanding of their operations and needs, and their expectations of our services. Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) were established with our customers so that REFM services could be defined and measured.
To support a dynamic evolving organization such as the IRS, REFM developed a Strategic Real Estate and Facilities Plan so that space requirements could be identified and planned years in advance. These plans are based upon operational and staffing projects, many of which are obtained through Advocates. A process was developed so that space and property projects could be identified, analyzed, and then presented to a Governance Board, comprised of all of the business unit heads, to prioritize and approve.
Workstation standards allow us greater flexibility to move offices without the need for major realignments, and ensure efficient use of space while meeting customer operational needs. We have also developed a Post of Duty Modeling Tool to efficiently select office locations based upon a variety of criteria.
REFM continues to look for opportunities to identify, review, and re-engineer key business processes such as space acquisition and realignments, mail management, and occupational safety and health. The results serve as a basis for our national policies and procedures, as well as for program training of our specialists. Working with our customers, REFM has also developed and formalized process-based performance measures.
We have developed a comprehensive technology and automation strategy to make effective business cases for limited, service-wide automation funding. Automation accomplishments include an automated Project Planning and Management intranet site, workstation supply and demand, project budget, project cost estimating, project scheduling, and workflow and project approvals. We also developed an REFM intranet website to provide immediate program information to our specialists as well as to our customers.
Our program of balanced measures include measurement of business results, such as the quality of our work environment, timeliness of governance board projects, and MOU success rate. We also measure customer and employee satisfaction rates from information obtained through the ERC.
To date, our efforts have resulted in a number of improvements.The main benefits are:
- improved internal and external communications
- improved customer service ratings
- improved budget and workforce planning
- reduced process cycle times
- improved process implementation costs
- comprehensive and defined approach to the user of real estate information technologies
However, though the IRS reorganization is now several years old, our challenges continue:
- we continue to review and reengineer our operations
- we are performing studies to explore competitive sourcing for many of our operations
- we continue to operate under budget limits and reductions
- we continue to learn and grow as an organization
About the Author
Jim Falcone began his service center career at the IRS in 1986. In 1994, as part of a national reorganization, Jim was appointed Chief Support Services for the Metro East Host Site located at Brookhaven. In September 2003, he was named Director, Real Estate and Facilities Management. In his current position, Jim is responsible for ensuring that real estate and facilities management services are provided at a very high level to internal customers through an organization of over 1,500 employees.