Tuesday, September 27, 2016
At a recent discussion of Shared Services – hosted by the Shared Services Leadership Coalition and attended by federal government officials, Hill staffers from the Hill, and industry shared services leaders – I suggested that Mick Jagger was an ally of sh

The breakfast included four presentations about different shared services related topics. A review Mick Jagger’s contribution to shared services is described below, following a summary of key points raised at the breakfast.

I opened with a history of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) efforts to reorganize HR and Finance, which led to the creation of a standalone Business Service Center.   As Director of MTA Shared Services Initiatives, I found that great efficiencies and savings resulted from implementing an ERP technology platform across the MTA’s eight separate companies, re-engineering business processes in HR and Finance, and training and re-deploying staff into a new and more advanced company. Lessons learned included assessing project risks and determining mitigation measures, assuring adequate staffing during transition, and realizing that agencies must facilitate change.

A speaker from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) then discussed HR-Smart, the VA’s HR system transformation.  HR-Smart is currently used by over 370,000 VA employees in a vast structure of clinics, offices and medical centers. The system provides interoperability across the VA, streamlines Personnel Action Request (PAR) processing, facilitates more rational and timely hiring of staff, and delivers self-service capabilities and enhanced customer service. The VA is the first federal agency to migrate to a private sector provider. The VA speaker then reviewed the case for HR-Smart, the issues related to the change of systems and culture, the significant accomplishments to date, and the drive for future improvements.

A speaker from the Cloud group of IBM described the issues relating to infrastructure and cloud. Recognizing that the transition from a server-based infrastructure to one that is cloud-based is a complicated process. He recommended that the federal government adopt a hybrid model that can accommodate the current investment in infrastructure, but enables cloud to be the solution to a digital transformation. He stressed that cloud will provide speed, flexibility, innovation and insight in the future. He also reported that cloud can increase cyber security by retiring vulnerable systems.

Finally, I then placed these three strands together in a proposed new shared services model that would move shared services from a vertical to horizontal delivery and governance approach. Currently, shared services providers contract directly for infrastructure and platform support, organizing data and business processes on an individual basis. This costly solution prohibits transporting services between providers should an agency wish to change. By standardizing infrastructure, platform and data “as a service,” providers will have to compete on service and price, and will further allow agencies to focus on their core mission. This follows the evolution of wireless telephony, including inter-operability of phone hardware and applications and the ability to transport your phone number between providers; FCC regulations requiring transportability drove the marketplace and demonstrate the role that government can play.

Now back to Mick Jagger.  Of course Jagger wasn’t really singing about government services when he penned the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but he does describe a critical dynamic that drives the change that defines shared services.

“You can’t always get what you want

But if you try some time, you just might find

You get what you need”

Shared services is about finding the right common and standard process to make an organization’s HR and finance effective and efficient. I call this the “80% rule.”  And this gets to the difference between a want and need. Primarily, “want” is subjective; “need” is objective. Organizations that have developed systems and processes over many years are often wedded to their past accomplishments, “I want to keep what has been successful for me to date.” Need on the other hand is based on analysis and science:   how can agencies share processing while ensuring that they receive mission critical services in a more timely and customer-driven operation?

One of the major takeaways from the breakfast is to focus public and private stakeholder attention on figuring out the government’s 80% common need -- thanks for the inspiration Mick.