Stars aligning for shared services?
- By Adam Mazmanian
- May 22, 2017
Federal IT leaders are sending strong signals to market players that they are preparing to shift federal systems to shared services at scale.
While shared services have been a fixture of plans to streamline and modernize government for decades, the Trump administration plan for a "comprehensive" reorganization may provide a needed push to make shared services a reality.
"We're going to adopt shared services on a scale that we've never done before," said Margie Graves, the acting federal CIO. "Therefore, we have to send a demand signal to the market."
Speaking at the annual ACT-IAC Management of Change conference, Graves said government needs to continue to prep for a shift to cloud-based shared services by setting standards and unifying data. She added that migrations to shared services are expected to figure heavily into agency reorganization plans.
Graves said good governmentwide standards are an important way to show industry that agencies are serious about shared services this time. "We have to get the standards right," she said. "We owe you that. Otherwise, why would you step out and invest and take that kind of a risk."
"It is an ROI game" for industry, she added "I understand that."
Beth Angerman, who heads the Unified Shared Services Management office at the General Services Administration, drove home the standards point in a subsequent panel.
She noted there are more than 100 different time and attendance systems across government, yet 90 percent of federal employees can't clock their hours on a cellphone or mobile device.
While Congress passes laws that drive "true variances" at agencies, Angerman is convinced that agencies can find 85 percent commonalities in functions like financial management, human resources and travel. The problem, she said, is that no one tells agency officials "no" when they insist they have bespoke needs for these types of systems.
"We want to consolidate as much as we can and get to a standard. That's how you get scale and scale is how you add value back to the taxpayer," Angerman said.
Robert Gibbs, chief human capital officer at the Department of Energy, said that "probably we have never had a greater moment in time to leverage administration support to pursue change." He added that "the biggest hurdle to change will be cultural."
Graves, meanwhile, noted that working capital funds called for in the MGT Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, are an important piece of the puzzle.
"We call them working capital funds, but they can be utilized as working operational funds, to change the expiration date on the dollars" allocated by Congress, Graves said.
"Never in 12 years in government have I seen the stars aligning in this way," she said. "We're knocking out barriers, lining up the money, talking about a delivery model. I think we're ready to go."
Graves also previewed plans to turn to industry and stakeholder for comment on how to make the shift to shared services happen, and welcomed continued engagement.
"You may think your comments go into a black hole, but they don't," she said.
Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.
Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.
Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.