Tuesday, June 12, 2018
The Administration views shared services as a key tool for agency reform.

I had the privilege of attending and speaking at a recent shared services breakfast seminar hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration, the Senior Executives Association, and the Shared Services Leadership Coalition.  At a high level, the session covered a shared services governance structure focusing on the voice of the customer, case studies of successful shared services governance structures, the development of service standards for shared services, and a discussion about grant programs and shared services.

Kicking off the seminar was a senior administration leader who focused on the vision of the administration to put a shared services stake in the ground, recognizing that “this is a relay, not a sprint, and one that will take 10 years to complete, and will save an estimated $2 Billion.” Reviewing the cross-agency goals, they discussed the relationship between IT modernization, shifting from low value to high value work, and shared services as part of a holistic approach. The administration also addressed the challenges of category management and the need to leverage common contracts and best practices to drive savings.

For government agencies, successful governance models involve collaborative partnerships between providers and customers and are characterized by a shared understanding of vision, business objectives, performance incentives, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.  The most common causes of underperformance typically occur in the area of governance: program and project management, requirements definition, execution oversight, and customer communications.  

The Sharing Quality Services Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal that describes the governance plan for shared services was also highlighted. This a comprehensive and complicated structure that starts at OMB and the President’s Management Council, and drives down to agencies and vendors. There were several revealing ideas in the presentation. Agencies themselves can decide how to start shared services by implementing: i) Technology Contracts; ii) Implementation & Integration Support Contracts; and/or iii) Help Desk and Transaction Support Contracts.  There isn’t a mandate for agencies to adopt a prescribed shared service approach.  “One size doesn’t fit all,” and it is important to listen to the voice of the customer. The dynamic is to find the right balance between choice and scale. The senior leader added, “I really feel like the ground is shifting” in terms of acceptance of a shared services future.

Shared services is headed toward an “as a service” approach that harnesses the capabilities of the private sector for service level agreements, upgrades, and innovation. The idea is that government doesn’t need to own or manage technology. “I don’t want government to build a process that looks like what we do today,” the leader stated.

How to Leverage the Voice of the Customer

A panel discussion on how to leverage the voice of the customer included three executives representing different roles in the government shared services journey.

Panelists described the grants offices’ efforts to develop standards, focusing on common transactions, while recognizing the very different grant programs.  They stressed the importance of breaking down silos and creating a common language. Speakers also linked the shared services enterprise office at their agencies with the delivery of mission success.  The importance of designing and delivering an internal shared service program that streamlines HR and finance operations was stressed. The panel voiced the importance of striving consistency across administrations.

A Case Study in Shared Services

I provided a case study in shared services from my time in New York City with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Prior to implementing shared services, the MTA was comprised of seven agencies, each using its own basket of applications for benefits administration, payroll, timekeeping, etc. Post shared services, the MTA now uses one Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, one document management system, and one customer relationship management system.  All using a single point of entry for all users.

All in all, a well-attended and informative seminar on shared services for government. To learn more about the seminar, including an audio file of the session, visit the NAPA website.