Shared services poised to reshape the federal market

The government’s IT evolution continues to pick up speed as budget pressures and calls for efficiency weigh heavily on federal leadership, driving change throughout Washington and beyond. Now, as agencies move toward a model of sharing goods and services, it’s changing the business landscape, according to one official.

According to Richard Spires, CIO at the Homeland Security Department, shared services go beyond just e-mail as a service and data center consolidation. Those approaches are just part of a comprehensive approach to a new, agile model of federal IT that catalyzes government operations in the 21st century.

“We want to get people working more on the mission outcomes and the mission outcomes for their clients than worrying about having to administer commodity IT. We want to redeploy our assets to work more closely with the mission,” Spires said May 21 at the GITEC Summit in Baltimore. “It’s a game-changer for us and for the federal government.”

At DHS, moving the department’s various components to shared e-mail services is set to save millions, with 100,000 accounts expected to be converted in the next year. But that’s just the start, Spires said.

“We’ve got half a dozen large-scale IT programs underway that are leveraging agile methodology. It’s been a wholesale shift in the last 12 months at DHS,” he said.

Like other government agencies, as DHS looks to expand enterprise offerings its leadership is developing new strategies and ways of conducting business, he noted.

“We’re trying to have a compelling business model to go to market in order to get people want to come work with us – and also to be rational about it,” Spires said. “There are situations where, for whatever reason, it doesn’t make business sense…we have to be rational about that, but I don’t want people to hide behind that either.”

A critical part of getting to a business-savvy shared environment is transparency, Spires stressed.

“I tell the components to just be transparent with us. Let’s sit down and roll up our sleeves and look at the alternatives,” he said. “And what we’re finding more and more is that the alternatives keep pointing to shared services as ways to draw people in, save money, provide a higher level of service and frankly get them out of having to worry about the administration of things they really shouldn’t have to worry about.”

The shift in standard operating procedure will undoubtedly impact industry as well, Spires acknowledged – and not just in the services and products the government buys. Broader efforts, such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), will also require the private sector to reevaluate its offerings.

“FedRAMP will create a market shift,” Spires said, adding that vendors should invest in cloud services, and invest soon – he warned that changes will happen quickly.

NEXT STORY: GSA goes big with big data

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