Extra Credit Project
Prepared by: Michael Melenka
Instructor: Dr. Nancy S. Grant
Course: CIT-100-11 IN94 Spring 07
Summary of the Case Study (Problem Description)
For the past several years, the Agency I work for purchases a software programfrom Universal Tax Systems, Inc. The program, commonly known as “Tax Wise,” is used at all of our office locations nationwide to file taxreturns electronically. I’d alsolike topoint out that this Company does have an excellentreputation with theproductsandservices they provide.
As with any software program, you expect some glitches or minor problems to beencountered. However, this year (2006) a unique problem surfaced that affected many(but notall) of ouroffices using this particular software. As I indicated earlier, thisprogram is used to file individual and certain business related tax returns electronically.
Once the information is input and transmitted, areport should automatically be displayedindicating the time and date the return(s) wastransmitted to the appropriate processingcenter. This report serves a dual purpose; it is a receipt that the tax return was filed, andit is also an informational tool that monitors the returns progress and status within thesystem. Once the report is received, it is simply printed and maintained in a file until theprocess is completed.
The problem that was identified involved the acknowledgement and progress
reports. These reports were not being displayed after the returns weretransmitted, nor
were the reports able to be printed. It turned out that many ofour office locations were
receiving an unknown error message. (The message was not specific regarding the
problemthat was encountered). The situation was creating significant problems,
especially withtrying to monitor the progress of the electronically filed tax returns.
Summary of References and Materials Used
Tax Wise 2006 User Manual:
The user manual provides a considerable amount of information relating to the Tax
Wise software. For example, it includes a section that provides the reader with: an
explanation on the software and programupdates; comprehensive instructions for
installing the software, user and administrativeresponsibilities, running system and
tax returndiagnostics, troubleshooting; retrieving reports, and working with
customer service. The company overall was thorough in ensuring easy to follow
instructions andexampleswere provided. This manual is definitely a valuableand
The current problem and error message received were not listed in the manual. So
in this situation, assistance had to be obtained elsewhere. However, I would like to
reiterate the problem that surfaced was unique and never encountered previously.
Tax Wise customer service and support center
The company has an excellent customer service program and their hours of
operationfluctuate throughout the year, which is based primarily on customer
needs. For example, during the months between January and April, Tax Wise
offers extended hours. This is significant because it is the busiest time of the
filing season, and extremely helpful and convenient for the customers. The
individuals that comprise the customer service staff are very knowledgeable,
patient, courteous, anddisplay a genuine desire to help. They also have a technical
support staff that dealwith the more involved and difficult IT problems relating to
There are two methods for contacting their customer support staff:
- Toll Free Number 1-866-641-9473
You do have to be a registered provider to obtain assistance. In order to gain
access, you need an assigned electronic filing number and software registration
The regular customer support personnel were unable to assist because of the nature
of the problem. It turned out the technical staff were working on the problem and
it was going to take some time to resolve.
Solutions Derived from Applying the PBL Model
The problem with displaying and printing the reports affected many of our offices,
but what was adding to the confusion was that there were actually some offices not
affected by these glitches. Procedures were followed for troubleshooting the software
itself, printer, reports menu, etc. But it seemed like nothing was working, so the problem
had to be elevated. After numerous attempts to resolve the problem by the local offices,
and the many contacts received at the customer support center, a joint effort emerged
between the Tax Wise and Agencies IT staff to resolve the problem. It took several
weeks, but the problem was finally identified. The question of why some offices were
not affected became the focus. It turned out the offices encountering the problems had
a newer version of the operating system installed on their computers. This new
operating system did not take into account that we were switching to “daylight savings
time” a week earlier this year. I’m not sure why it had an affect on the software, but
procedures were disseminated to simply un-click the automatic update for the daylight
savings box located in the time zone tab. Once this was accomplished, it was my
understanding that the offices were finally able to retrieve and print the needed reports.
Observations, Team Interactions, and Personal Comments
While employed as a program analyst, I am primarily responsible for analyzing
data and statistical information. During this past filing season, I was assigned as an
electronic filing coordinator for the Pittsburgh and Upstate N. Y. offices. However, my
office was one of the locations unaffected by the problem, and I can attest the computer
used in this area had the older version of the operating system negating any of the
Extra Credit Project on Problem-based Learning 4
Solutions Derived from Applying the PBL Model
problems experienced at the other locations. Basically a problem was identified, attempts
were made to troubleshoot the issue across the country, but later it had to be elevated to
obtain a resolution. In the meantime, while this was going on, I also was able toassist
anothercoordinator to obtain the needed reportsthrough the customer supportservice
website. This was merely a temporary solution, but very affective for monitoring the
work flow and ensuring our objectives were met. I’d like to add that as coordinators, we
are limited in our expertise and ability to provide viable solutions to IT problems. We
have to rely on the instructional manuals and support staff for the significant problems.
In this situation it really worked out well!
What I observed, was that the PBL standards were actually applied at each level.
For example, the problem was identified at the local level, and the actions taken involved
following the manual instructions for trouble shooting. When these actions failed, the
next recourse was to contact customer support, which was later elevated to technical
support. Finally, a joint venture was required which finally identified the problem was
not in the software, but within the operating system itself. While the overall solution to
the problem was quite simple, locating the actual cause of the problem was quite difficult
and time consuming.
Thoughts in Applying the PBL
In all my years of experience that involved school, work and the military, I amrealizing that the PBLstandards were used in one form or another. I am not a computergenius, nor can I pretend to be. I also cannot provide you with a thorough and completeexplanation ofhow the cause of the problem was actually identified, particularly since it was elevated and resolved by more knowledgeable individuals on the IT staff. What I can offer youis an explanation of how these standardswere applied at the local level individually,prior to being elevated and resolved corporately. The overall PBL concept is extremelyhelpful andbeneficial for identifying problems, and researching available resources toobtainsolutions from other similar situations; or as in this case, identify and resolve a problemthat was never previously encountered. However, what I learned is one of themost important qualitiesfor ensuring these standards are successful, is communication(share experiences andinformation), and the ability to work together. This is regardless of the situation or problem that may be encountered.
Author: Stone, Erin; Editor: Casillas, Peggy Fowler; Vice President Tax Wise Training:
Honea, Susan Wimberly; 2006 Universal Tax Systems, Inc.; “Tax Wise 2006
User Manual,” Printed in the USA 11/2006
Tax Wise Customer Service Support Website, 5/2007
Tax Wise Customer Service Support Toll Free Number, 1-866-641-9473 (WISE), 5/2007
Miscellaneous Agency References, e-mail, dtd 3/13/2007