Janet Hale is a director at Deloitte Services LP and former undersecretary for management at the Department of Homeland Security. ()
The concept of shared or integrated services has been present within the federal government for over 20 years, but the conversation has been heightened with continued pressure from the Office of Management and Budget and the Obama administration to consider new ways of doing business and avoid duplicative work. Agencies have been asked to challenge the status quo of how services are provided across their organizations. The Department of Homeland Security is no exception to this conversation.
The creation of DHS, which entailed integrating 22 agencies, provided an opportunity to re-evaluate how administrative services were deployed. Since its inception, DHS has been on an evolving path of implementing integration efforts in technology and personnel support across back office functions (HR, IT, acquisitions, and finance) over the past 10 years. The migration of seven different HR/Payroll systems to a single provider, the National Finance Center is a prime example of these efforts.
Implementing shared services is dependent on the readiness of both the supplier to provide services and the customer to receive services. Beyond formally understanding and addressing specific agency service requirements, providers should have an honest conversation about their capacity with current organizational structures to handle new customers – is there the right mix of staffing and governance to provide enhanced services for additional customers. On the flip side, the customer should ready its people for the inherent impacts to how business is conducted within the organization.
For DHS to continue its journey in future efforts, it may help to look at common success factors as well as anticipate potential roadblocks. In a new publication, “Helping Government Delivery: Transforming Mission and Support Services,” co-produced by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, the following success factors were identified across several narratives, in addition to some that I have observed from my own experiences:
Forming the Right Team: Leadership with complementary skills and experiences should be identified as part of the governance structure to make and implement decisions rapidly and effectively. Leadership with a strong governance structure that creates dependencies within the C-Suite will be necessary to drive efforts forward.
Addressing Stakeholder Expectations Upfront: Successful service delivery is driven by accounting for the needs and expectations of stakeholders impacted by services and by abating concerns of the loss of agency specific requirements. The collective experience and knowledge of individuals in the field is vital input into how services should be delivered.
Defining a Shared Vision: Along with recognizing stakeholder needs, a shared understanding and agreement between the provider and the recipient of services on requirements, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), roles and responsibilities, and costs early on can lead to early adoption and set up the organization for long term success.
Anticipating Potential Roadblocks: Implementing shared or integrated services is a far reaching endeavor that requires not just agency support, but political and financial capital from the OMB and the Hill. Agreement from multiple committees on the Hill on vision and capital are required for a large scale integration effort to be realized and implemented.
Measuring Performance: Capitalizing on increased transparency and data availability, an agency should continue to monitor performance against defined, pre-established criteria to determine quantifiable benefits of shared services.
Shared services can drive the delivery of more efficient mission support functions within agencies allowing the eventual cost savings into the front line mission of the agencies.