Cross-agency centers are coming

Cross-agency service centers handling information technology infrastructure for financial management, resources management and grants will begin operating in fiscal 2006, officials said today.

Office of Management and Budget officials started a governmentwide analysis of five business lines in March as the next step in expanding e-government and eliminating duplication of IT investments. Business case reports have been completed for three of the five business lines: financial management, human resource, and grants management.

Federal agencies will not be forced into adopting common service centers, said John Sindelar, a General Services Administration deputy associate administrator. Sindelar spoke today during panel discussion at the Interagency Resources Management Conference (IRMCO).

"We're going to phase this in over time," he said. "If you have a steady state and don't want to move to the common solution, we will not make you."

Agencies will continue to own their data and individual business processes.

"You will have your domain within the common solution, and all of your stuff executes in there, and you have control of it," said Mark Carney, deputy chief financial officer of the Education Department. Carney helped manage the grants business line task force. "You won't have to worry about the software upgrades, and you won't have to worry about the [Web] hosting."

The service centers will allow for individual agency idiosyncrasies, Carney said. "There is not an issue with interoperability along the seams," he said. "We've just got to make sure we govern it correctly."

Ninety percent of the challenge comes from change management rather than from the technology, Sindelar said.

"Through the budget process, there'll be some decisions made as to what are good candidates for becoming a service center," he said, adding that there will be a competition open to commercial vendors.

One possibility is that a private-sector firm invests the upfront costs and earns it back through fee-for-service charges.

Only the federal health architecture and case management services task forces have yet to complete their business cases, Sindelar said. But those lines of business don't cut across as wide a swath of agencies as the other three, he said. As a result, cross-agency health architecture and case management functions will likely not resolve toward a common service center, he added.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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