If Done Smartly, Shared Services Can Offer a Huge Boost for Agencies

Officials from the Defense Health Agency and Agriculture Department offer tips on how best to deploy shared services.

The Trump administration has highlighted shared services as a way to make government IT more efficient.

Shared services consolidate common government operations like IT management, finance, human resources and other functions into centralized service providers. Multiple agencies can take advantage of the services, reducing costs and boosting efficiencies as the government leverages its massive collective buying power.

The administration is also taking efforts to ensure it has a centralized strategy for getting agencies to adopt more shared services. In January, the General Services Administration merged the Unified Shared Services Management office decided to merge it with the Office of Executive Councils to form the Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement.

Beth Angerman, the head of the new office and the former head of USSM, said in March that standardization is a critical pillar for shared services. She noted to FedScoop that "if we don’t agree on what we are buying, then we are not going to be able to achieve the outcome that we are all hoping for: that we can get to scale and drive more efficient processes across government."

And just this week GSA unveiled plans that it hopes will speed up how small businesses introduce new technologies to agencies by making the commercialization phase of its small business innovation program a shared services offering, as FCW reports.

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DHA, USDA Offer Lessons on Shared Services Adoption

With their promise of increased efficiency and cost savings, implementing shared services is a prime goal of federal IT modernization, but it’s important to share carefully, says Army Col. Richard Wilson, solution delivery division chief for the Defense Health Agency.

“There’s a lot to work out to ensure that the agencies have shared requirements and shared workflows,” he says. “We’ve spent five years collaborating on a patient safety reporting system with the Veterans Affairs Department — that’s something you obviously have to get right. You have to choose opportunities carefully.”

Applications that support functions needed by every agency are obvious targets for placement in a shared service, says Jonathan Benett, former chief enterprise architect for the Agriculture Department.

“Every agency in the federal government has a human resources portal, and we could probably use just one, or at least just one for things like time and attendance,” he says. “But people have had painful experiences from trying to align their work to shared services that were imposed without enough preparation.”

For more on how agencies are streamlining their technology, check out “How DHA and USDA Have Cleaned Up Their Cluttered App Portfolios.”

Petar Chernaev/Getty Images
Jul 31 2018