Managing ICT solutions and Infrastructure

Chapter 13. Managing ICT solutions and Infrastructure

ICT as a Strategic Tool to Leapfrog the Efficiency of Tax Administrations

The Information Technology (IT) environment is a complex ecosystem. There are computers, storage devices, communication networks and a lot of software, all things working at the same time. Interactions happen all the time.

Counting on the generous tolerance of the readers, let me write that obtaining the expected answers and the results produced by the IT environment even seems something magical, mysterious. Today there are thousands of IT environments cooperating with each other, exchanging data in real time, serving most of humanity’s activities.

Even so, what is known is that it works. Human life has changed dramatically in recent decades, leveraged by IT. As in other areas – the most used example is the aeronautical industry – IT is being improved every day, within the scope of basic technologies, programs and communication networks. Everything happens, however, at very high speed.

IT news and changes are intense and fast. Technological innovations appear and are promoted by commercial interests. What was very good one day will be abhorred the next day. The speed of technological innovations requires the use of a specialized communication language, almost a dialect.

Following the evolution of society, based on specialization and cooperation, activities are increasingly dependent on data and information. Some activities, notably those that were already information intensive users – such as tax administrations, are now very dependent on data and information and have its operations based on IT resources and services.

The quality of IT resources – hardware, software, networks – increases every day. Costs fall every day. Efficiency in the use of resources is no longer so important. This situation promotes the false feeling that nothing more is needed to increase the stability and quality of IT services.

This feeling is completely ruinous. Users, legitimately, want services that never fail, with the best performance and the lowest costs, and with response time tending to zero!

On the other hand, failures still happen. Programs are still susceptible to errors. There are internal and external threats. It is not enough, therefore, to rely only on the quality of basic resources – hardware, software, networks. It is necessary to manage, offer the best services and solutions with a clear demonstration that it is possible to ensure stability and resilience and, from there, seek alignment with corporate strategies and be an agent of transformation.

It is not enough to cultivate the optimistic expectation that failures will affect services less and less and that the organization has the capacity to react to face failures. There are schemes and frameworks that structure what needs to be done.

In the first stage, processes and systematization of IT activities must be adopted. This approach allows the use of the best IT knowledge and practices, without the need for testing or “reinventing the wheel”. From this stage, it is possible to evolve to stages of proactive and preventive action, alignment with corporate strategies and direct participation in the corporation’s final activities.

Not all difficulties and problems are known. Some challenges will only arise in the future. It is inglorious to want to develop this ability to anticipate the mastery of all events. As some navigators teach, it is not possible to build a boat that is navigable and prepared to never capsize, but it is reasonable to look for a vessel that, even after capsizing, always returns to its regular position. In the IT world, it is unreasonable to expect never to fail, but it is possible to seek the security of being able to recover the position of stability, even in the face of the worst disturbances.

Excerpts from chapter 13 – Managing ICT solutions and Infrastructure:

  • “Information technology (IT) is one of the pillars that support the activities of Tax Administrations. Regardless of internal (in-house) or external (contracted) operations, IT needs to be managed. Currently, the efficiency of Tax Administrations is strongly associated with the adequate use of IT and the quality of IT services. It is not possible to get total efficiency and effectiveness of the Tax Administration without IT management”.

  • “IT is managed in some way because such a complex activity cannot stand without coordination, control and financial management. However, if IT uses a custom management solution, it is impossible to achieve some benefits such as: comparing with similar organizations, using ready-made support tools, and hiring trained and certified personnel in the custom solution. A widely used IT management solution, such as ITIL, offers these benefits and can be customized and implemented to meet the needs of the organization”.

  • “The tax activities depend on the treatment of information (collection, processing of tax returns, audit, inspection, etc.). It is not just about hiring the best resources and services on the market”.

  • “There are external variables that contribute to the non-use of systematic management, because the quality of the services improves independently of the implementation of a systematic management. Some of these external factors are the growth of resource performance and reliability, the reduction of failures and price of fault-tolerant resources, and the concentration of offerings of solutions in a few suppliers. They also collaborate on the great dynamics in technologies and the “hope” that a “silver bullet” can be offered at any time”.

  • “ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) is not simple. Independently of the management framework selected, ITSM requires persistence. The results of the early stages, even with flexibility, do not match the expenses. In the adoption of a new methodology, negative reactions are natural – “it is very bureaucratic”, “we are wasting time with it”. It is necessary to manage negative reactions. Deployment of the framework is a hard work, but the benefits are very relevant to the Tax Administration unit”.

  • “The ITSM framework can be adapted to the size of the Tax Administration unit. The methodology is not only applicable in large organizations, it can be adjusted and implemented gradually”.

“This Blog series was prepared before the outbreak of the Covid Crisis. We hope that this publication will be of interest to strengthen the capability of Tax Administrations through the use of ICTs during this period.”

 

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