Shared Services Could Save Agencies Billions

Despite successes, barriers remain to broad adoption.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is such an old hand at shared IT services that it no longer has an IT help desk. NOAA calls it the “service-delivery division,” said Darren Smith, program manager for the agency’s high-performance computing and communications group, at MeriTalk’s Data Center Brainstorm event.

NOAA was an early adopter of shared communication and messaging services through Google Apps for Government.

“We are succeeding over time in gaining more customers by giving the carrot rather than the stick,” Smith said about adopting a services model. “CIOs have some powers under the Clinger–Cohen Act, but they don’t have a lot of power. So you have to offer a carrot to your customers and say, ‘If you come to me, I’ll save you money and we can do this better.’”

This month, MeriTalk released a report, “Shared Services: Ready or Not?”, that showed shared services could cut federal IT costs by $27.9 billion annually. The total proposed federal IT budget for fiscal year 2015 is about $79 billion. The report was based on a survey of 138 federal IT workers.

Among the study’s findings:

  • 87 percent believe cloud computing has changed their view of shared services
  • 53 percent use shared services today.
  • 44 percent say their agency offers services to other agencies.

Agency culture and concerns about security have been barriers to the adoption of shared services in the federal government, according to researchers. “Less than half of fed CIOs own their IT budgets. Shared services is the key to centralizing control, accountability and efficiency,” said MeriTalk founder Steve O’Keeffe.

At NOAA, officials have found that once users embrace shared services, they often see the light, which eventually leads to an agency realizing other IT goals. “Once they succeed, they’re more likely to trust you the next time,” Smith said. “Messaging worked out really well, so now we’re going to try to do all the desktops. And that’s going well, so let’s try and do the applications, and we can consolidate our data centers.”

Mar 17 2014