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Service Consolidation: How to Avoid Basic Pitfalls of Shared Services

As pressures to reduce costs and increase efficiencies continue to dominate the federal landscape, shared services will continue to provide much needed returns for federal agencies.

Many government agencies have already taken unprecedented steps to conserve resources while improving service delivery by embracing shared services. These progressive organizations have many experiences and lessons learned to share with fellow agencies. Recently, Tom Kireilis, Program Executive, General Services Administration (GSA) and Mark Comishock, Senior Director Sales Consulting, Oracle teamed up on the webcast, Service Consolidation: How to Avoid Basic Pitfalls of Shared Services to share examples, ideas and advise on lessons learned from migrating to a shared services model. The following are highlights from their presentation.

Basic pitfalls and barriers to Shared Services adoption:

  • A lack of information shared across agencies- Agencies might have the same set of basic requirements but they do not engage across the agency to determine how a service can be leveraged.
  • Culture may be an obvious barrier, but in many cases services and processes being considered for a shared services model are duplicative and exist in silos as a result of an organizational culture that breeds “it does not work for me, so I need to build it again”.
  • The acquisition process across agencies can and likely does differ.
  • Security is typically tied to the ownership of data, therefore when implementing interagency services, organizations need to consider the differences in how agencies have established security requirements. Cloud and other emerging technologies, however can help organizations keep pace with security requirements.
  • Non standardized, manual processes make it difficult to implement a common service.
  • End user experience needs to be considered from the end users’ perspective and be considered early enough in the process or else problems are likely to result downstream.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are an important topic for consideration when establishing a shared services relationship. Agencies need to consider what SLAs make sense and impose the proper penalties when SLAs are not met. However, the SLAs defined need to make sense for both the agency and service provider or else the shared services relationship is doomed to fail.

Recommendations for avoiding common pitfalls:

  • Ensuring change management efforts across the organization
  • Dedicating resources to analyzing and reengineering processes to move to a process that works across the agency or among agencies
  • Implementing a phased approach to shared services adoption
  • Ensure the right technology is in place to support shared services (e.g. robust connectivity, cloud computing)
  • Establish key performance targets and identify those responsible for achieving the performance targets. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) need to be established in a way that delivers meaningful services. These KPIs must address various aspects of the shared services environment and include cost management, operational excellence, delivery management, user satisfaction and project management and governance. The KPIs should be measureable and clearly demonstrate how success is or is not being made.

Best practices for establishing a shared services environment:

  • Establish a clear governance model to define what you are providing to the service consumer.
  • Define your service at the right level by confirming attributes such as the uptime, availability and confirm that the definitions are also good for the consumer.
  • Follow a defined framework—standardization is critical in providing a framework. Mobility will play a role in defining how we look at these frameworks. As more mobile devices are consumed, the way in which we conduct business changes as well. Approvals and access to internal systems from mobile devices will need to be a consideration for the framework.
  • Over-communicate by never assuming the end user is on board unless you over communicate the process and even have the end user operate their systems in parallel until you complete a full switchover to the shared service.

Check out the rest of the examples and ideas shared on the webcast, Service Consolidation: How to Avoid Basic Pitfalls of Shared Services by clicking here to access the On Demand Replay.

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Chris Cairns

Great set of recommendations. Cultural change and governance really stick out as barriers to adoption.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Melissa and Chris: You are right that culture is the issue here but, in my experience and observations of the GovLoop audience, culture is treated like the weather. Everyone wants to talk about it (barely) but no one wants to really do anything about it.