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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The National Business Center Takes on the Private Sector

"Can a government organization be run like a business?

The Interior Department's National Business Center is doing just that. NBC, a cross-agency service provider, has a solid business base and a growing portfolio. It's also gearing up to compete head-on with private-sector vendors for contracts.

'We're a business in a federal environment,' said Sandra Weisman, NBC's chief financial officer and associate director for budget and finance. 'We don't get any appropriations,' she said, alluding to fact that NBC can only pay its people if it makes money. 'There is a tremendous accountability there,' she said.

With over 1,200 employees and an annual budget approaching $300 million, NBC is one of four payroll services and one of five human-resources providers for federal agencies. NASA, the Transportation Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are among NBC’s more than 125 customers. NBC’s multitudinous other services include IT, acquisitions, asset management and drug testing. Finding success in a competitive business environment is no mean feat. “We’ve won some, we’ve lost some,” NBC director Doug Bourgeois said, referring to financial-management competitions.

One-stop shopping is NBC’s primary competitive edge. “Our strength lies in our ability to provide a full set of outsourced business management services to our customers,” Bourgeois said.

NBC uses a best-of-breed combination of private-sector and federal employees to achieve its aims. It endeavors to “focus feds on the things that feds do best and to use the private sector for the other things that they do better,” Weisman said.
NBC competes with other service centers in the federal league, but is also starting to go head-to-head with the private sector.

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