Lines of business initiatives move ahead

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Making lines of business efforts work is mostly a matter of planning ahead, according to panelists who spoke today at the Interagency Resources Management Conference.


"Big failures tend to be on the people side, the management side, and not on the technology side," said Larry Neff, deputy chief financial officer at the Transportation Department.


DOT runs a financial management shared-services center with the Government Accountability Office as its single largest user, and some smaller agencies are also signed on. The Financial Management Line of Business initiative is intended to concentrate financial management information technology services into a few agencies, which then provide the services to other agencies. The goal is to lower overall costs by reducing the duplication that comes when each agency runs its own financial management operation.


Smaller agencies have been the most eager users to sign up with the shared-services centers. Anton Porter, deputy CFO at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said small agencies are hard-pressed to manage their own systems and welcome the help.


"They're very mission-oriented," he said. "What the shared-services model provides is the opportunity for the small agencies to focus strictly on mission."


Small agencies trying to run their own IT operations typically have little resilience, said John O'Connor, director of GAO's office of financial management.


"You'd almost cross your fingers when people went on leave," he said, because if anything went wrong with the system while the IT employee able to work on it was away, no other help was available.


However, Neff said, agencies that require customized systems should look to the private sector for help. Shared-services centers create value by being standardized and using commercial software without changing it.


"I can't make a profit on this," he said, so there is no justifcation for customizing solutions.


 

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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