The Collaboration Process
Critical success factors
In talking with project participants it was clear that strong championship, leadership, and willingness to take risks, on the part of the ETA Assistant Commissioner and the ETA Director, were major factors in the success of the e-file implementation. This was noted consistently. The Assistant Commissioner for the ETA was awarded a 2000 "Federal 100"8 for his pioneering work on e-file.
Other factors were the partner's willingness to take some risk as well, as this was an untested market. The all around experience of the partners was another critical success factor. There were smart, knowledgeable, and committed people involved. The ability to take advantage of innovative procurement processes, coupled with constant legal advice, was also noted as critical to the good outcome of e-file. Finally participants felt that this was a huge untapped market of opportunity, and that the market conditions were right for an electronic transaction process. These two factors combined also were critical to the project's success.
A number of other factors surfaced when exploring this area. It was noted by some that other behaviors that helped urge the project on were:
The ETA staff was not reluctant to use intimidation, begging, or cajoling
The ETA staff never took no for an answer; if they received a no, they asked "why?"
The willingness of all the partners to work on both sides of the fence (public and private)
The partners had agreed-upon business goals and evaluation criteria, and
Everyone knew what was wanted and was committed to achieving the goals of the project.
An interesting and novel success factor for the e-file was the ability of the IRS to actually go out and market its product e-file. This is not a common activity or budget line for federal agencies. But the RRA of 1998 specifically addressed the need to enhance the visibility of this new program and appropriated funds to do so. The ETA group received their first marketing budget for tax year 1999. Through a series of innovative and attention-getting advertising vehicles, along with the use of the award winning Digital Daily web site, the IRS was able to increase the visibility of e-file among tax payers and potential tax preparer partners.
The staff at the ETA feels that the marketing campaign has been a major success. Based on their evaluations, they are now planning a five-year media and advertising campaign. They hope to increase the visibility of e-file to convince even more taxpayers to electronically file their tax returns.