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Friday, September 14, 2007

Agencies need to improve service-level agreements

For the Office of Management and Budget’s Line of Business initiatives to work successfully, agencies must learn to write better, more comprehensive service-level agreements.

Federal experts said that is one of the most difficult parts of the shared-services concept.

“Writing SLAs is a weakness in the fee-for-service model,” said Danny Harris, the Education Department’s deputy chief financial officer, during a panel discussion on shared services.

Harris, who also is chairman of the CFO Council’s Financial Systems – Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) Oversight Transformation Team committee, said too often agencies write ambiguous SLAs that results in disagreements among providers and customers.

Mary Mitchell, the Financial Management Line of Business program manager and executive director of FSIO, said her program office has released SLA templates for agencies to use. FSIO asked providers and customers to update their agreements based on these templates, she said.

But the challenge is customer agencies have fewer disincentives with federal providers than with private-sector providers, Mitchell said.

Dick Burk, OMB’s chief architect, said the way and ability to terminate a shared-services agreement still is a gray area in the initiative.

Harris added that having financial-management standards also will make it easier to migrate because vendor’s products all will be similar.

Mitchell said agencies have had standards, but there has been too much flexibility or variation in how they were applied. FSIO and the FM LOB are developing and mandating specific standards such as a governmentwide cost accounting standard.

-Jason Miller, FCW.com

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