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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Federal shared services effort gets push from new executive forum

The Office of Management and Budget has said little publicly about the future of the Lines of Business initiatives that began under the previous administration.

So without specific direction, agencies are taking it upon themselves to implement these initiatives whether human resources, financial management or cybersecurity.

One new major effort is the Shared Services Forum made up of 20 agency executives with some support from industry collaborating and sharing best practices.

"It was a group of people who started talking about shared services, but [the efforts] were all over the map, and we were believers in shared services and believed there needs to be some structure to make it flourish because government can't afford to continue to have everyone build their own capabilities," says Jim Williams, the commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service.

This forum is not specific to a back office function, but instead the goal is to reach governmentwide implementation of all shared services.

Williams says the forum is developing recommendations for how to expand the use of and continue to institutionalize shared services as a concept across all agencies.

"We are making recommendations that look like cloud computing so that you can finally improve some of these services-procurement, personnel, all of the different things the government does," he says.

"We're thinking of something where there is broad access to these services, where every agency doesn't have to have their own, that it is somewhat like the government health care system where there is managed competition and not the Wild Wild West. There is a common lexicon, common measurements and common way to measure customer satisfaction."

The forum will submit their recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget's chief performance officer Jeffrey Zients. Williams says the forum members hoped to meet with Zients in November to discuss the recommendations.

Williams says some estimate that agencies can save 20-percent-to-30-percent by moving administrative services to shared service providers.

The forum also likely will recommend a dashboard to measure the impact of these services.
Williams says the forum didn't grow from the LOBs, but came to be from GSA, vendors and several agencies who provide shared services believing there is a need to collaborate and coordinate more effectively.

In fact, Williams says he prefers not to call these lines of business, but use the more common private sector term, shared services. He says there are some similarities, but the big difference is the maturity of the shared services approach.

Along with the forum, the Security LOB will issue two requests for proposals later this year for certification and accreditation services, and situational awareness and incident response services.

The Human Resources and Financial Management shared service efforts also are making progress by setting standards and determining how best to integrate existing systems.
Several other Lines of Business, including Grants and the Budget Formulation and Execution efforts, have been less active over the past year.

And the IT Infrastructure initiative is now about cloud computing as a means to consolidate desktops, networks and other infrastructure.

- Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

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