Even though agency leaders are interested in moving to shared services they are worried about the high level of risk and a long, drawn out process, according to a new report and agency officials.

While agency leaders recognize the opportunities and potential savings of moving to a shared services model many do not see it as a high priority, according to the Partnership for Public Service report on shared services released March 12.

Bill Beyer, a principal at consulting firm Deloitte, which underwrote the report, said at an event March 13 that agencies will need a comprehensive, multi-year plan as well as strong leadership to complete the transition.

Even with eventual cost savings there will be an initial investment that agencies will need to work through, Beyer said. Agencies should also focus on smaller "quick win" projects and pilot programs to move shared services forward.

"Ultimately it comes down to leadership and the ability to stay in the fight long enough, because it is a fight," Beyer said.

Ellen Herbst, the chief financial officer at the Commerce Department, said the agency was analyzing its approach to shared services to help lower administrative costs and put more money toward mission and program activities.

But the main goal is to get more bang for the buck in the form of better and faster service, Herbst said.

"It's not a cost saving mentality, but really getting the best value out of every dollar we are spending,"

She said as budgets tighten and agencies are forced to do more the current model of providing all their own services internally will be impossible.

"It's only going to get worse," Herbst said. "We simply cannot sustain the model of service delivery we currently have."

Brad Huther, chief financial officer at the Housing and Urban Development Department, said earlier attempts at the agency to transition its financial systems to a shared service priority were based on wrong assumptions and an unrealistically small cost.

But the agency learned from early issues and is breaking down the project into more manageable and affordable chunks, he said. Agency managers need to keep with the transition to shared services in order to make it work, Huther added.

"This shared service transition is not for the faint of heart. Its hard work," Huther said. "Roll up your sleeves and put your nose to the grindstone."

  • The report recommended that OMB:Establish clear deadlines regarding shared services and hold agency leaders accountable for meeting those deadlines.
  • Develop service-level agreements for agencies to use as templates for their own agreements. OMB could build a repository of templates for agencies to draw upon, according to the report.
  • Work with the General Services Administration to establish a team of experts to assist agencies as they move toward shared services models, much like the 18F digital incubator.
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