How to share a service

Two key questions help decide which services should be bigger than any one agency.

shared services concept

Sharing IT resources across agencies is a key part of the Obama administration’s push to streamline and economize federal technology spending. But even though using a shared service is relatively straightforward, the decision to become a managing partner and share your own service is much more complicated.

John Hale, chief of enterprise applications at the Defense Information Systems Agency, offered some advice for officials who are trying to determine whether a particular IT service is truly shareable.

First, they should ask themselves two questions:

1. Is the service needed at other agencies besides my own?

2. Can my agency afford to continue providing the service on its own?


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"Once you take the first step and say, ‘This service really is bigger than my organization, and it should be shared,’ then the case for all of the other ones is easier," Hale said.

If you determine that the service is bigger than your organization, the next consideration is whether it is commodity-based or mission-specific.

Commodity-based services — think email, content management or human resources systems — are easier to turn into a shared service because more people need them. Mission-specific services, on the other hand, can take more work to fit more than one agency’s needs. But those services — geospatial systems, for example — can often benefit the most from cross-agency standardization.

Hale said DISA officials consider offering a service enterprisewide if it has 10,000 potential users. Nevertheless, each organization would have to determine its own tipping point between added cost and improved return on investment before sharing its service.

One key consideration is how much it costs your agency to provide the service. Hale said agencies can sometimes reduce the cost of a service by making it available to others.

"If you share it across multiple organizations, you have the ability to defray the cost of the core infrastructure into the ‘share operations’ mode," he said.

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