IRS' FIELD ASSISTANCE SCHEDULING TOOL (FAST)
The Field Assistance Scheduling Tool (FAST) is a tool that was built to streamline the appointment scheduling process, and ensure over 4,000 IRS employees provide the best support possible to resolve tax related issues for the American Taxpayer. Under the leadership of Donny Vester, the IRS Field Assistance Scheduling Tool (FAST) team drove the development of a tool that created a streamlined experience for thousands of IRS employees which over time will help ensure millions of American taxpayers receive the timely tax-related support they need. The tool is leveraged by the Wage & Investment (W&I) group of the IRS. The division works with taxpayers who call in to schedule face-to-face appointments for tax-related assistance for topics including, but not limited to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Authentication, Tax Refund Inquiries, Tax Payment Collection, Identity Verification for the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP), and immediate release of liens and/or levies.
The previous SharePoint based appointment scheduling solution leveraged by the IRS to schedule taxpayer appointments to resolve W&I related tax issues often resulted in lengthy calls with taxpayers, and an inefficient use of both the IRS employee and taxpayer’s time. This legacy appointment scheduling tool suffered from specific system limitations, including the fact that the product was not designed to be an appointment scheduling tool, and critical metrics that could help drive positive change were not available.
From a technical standpoint, the SharePoint solution was built on six collection sites that made it complex, and difficult to manage and update. Additionally, SharePoint was labor intensive and relied heavily on IRS IT support to make program and systematic changes. Moreover, SharePoint did not operate, consistently and effectively with all the 450 Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) and partners on the system.
Field Assistance requested a tool that would easily support configuration of a scheduling tool to replace SharePoint. In August 2015, the IRS Wage & Investment Accounts Management (AM) and Field Assistance (FA) organizations partnered on a new initiative to develop a solution that enables taxpayer customer appointments to be scheduled through Accounts Management, for participating Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). By 2017, replacing it was the IRS Commissioner’s priority for the 2018 Filing season.
SERVICE TO THE
CITIZEN AWARD WINNER
SUPERVISORY MANAGEMENT ANALYST
DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY
Field Assistance, led by Donny Vester, recognized the existing scheduling solution’s shortcomings, and spearheaded a new solution. The team worked with a partner who assessed the current situation, evaluated potential COTS products for a solution, and ultimately selected a COTS product that could be quickly and easily configured to meet the IRS’s needs. An initial proof of concept was developed, and multiple meetings were held between the partner, Field Assistance leadership, and employees to gather their feedback and answer questions. Field Assistance then partnered with IRS IT to conduct an impact assessment.
In preparation for the 2018 Tax Filing Season, Donny and his team developed an innovative approach to ensure all IRS required development processes were completed and approved by the respective IRS process owners, and ensured the tool being developed met the needs of both the IRS and, most importantly, the taxpayer. The end result of this innovative approach allowed his team to collaborate with the partner to develop a new solution. The Field Assistance Scheduling Tool (FAST) is a FedRAMP Moderate cloud-based solution leveraging ServiceNow COTS technology. In just under five months, the FA team developed, built, tested, deployed the new solution, and trained 4,000+ users. By January 2018, it had been scaled to support 450 Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) and 1,500 licensed IRS users. Since its 2018 Go Live, FAST supported the creation of over 1.8 million appointments for the American Taxpayer. The innovative tool remains a priority of the IRS Commissioner’s for the upcoming 2019 Filing Season and the tool is primed and ready to support. In preparation, Donny Vester and his team collaborated closely with the partner during the offseason to implement over 350 system updates/changes to continuously enhance the system to improve the overall customer experience for both IRS and the American Taxpayer.
The Field Assistance team developed a modern, efficient, and intuitive solution, and migrated it to a lower-cost channel (the cloud), and delivered in time for the 2018 Filing Season to meet IRS and taxpayers’ needs with an improved experience. FAST has automated the previously manual scheduling process, simplified resource and facility management, and provides extensive reporting of relevant metrics. The tool enables the IRS to expedite and streamline the appointment process for taxpayers and provides the capability to report on key information. The solution allows detailed data points to be captured, such as appointment volumes, durations, no-show data, and both location and resource management metrics. These metrics empower the IRS to determine taxpayer and IRS workforce trends, and help define data driven strategic decisions to better train and staff IRS employees at locations to support taxpayer needs.
As a result of the implementation, the 2018 Tax Filing Season handle time for calls coming into the contact centers to schedule an appointment was reduced by one full minute per call. That 1 minute translates roughly into $1.3 million saved for the IRS!