To Market, To Market

When you go to the local farmer’s market to buy produce, you often end up getting great value and quality. That’s usually because you can see the array of options right in front of you in order to make an informed decision. You’re aware of your options, and that makes you more confident in your selection of those fruits and veggies.

Likewise, the Partnership for Public Service recently recommended implementing a government-wide marketplace for shared services. Dan Chenok, Senior Advisor to Government Executives at the Partnership for Public Service, spoke with Christopher Dorobek for the podcast DorobekINSIDER about the Partnership’s report entitled “Building a Shared Service Marketplace: Recommendations for a Government-Wide Approach”.

Shared services have the potential to save the government a great deal of money through developing more cost-efficient systems in arenas such as human resources, acquisitions, and IT services. As always, cutting costs is a huge area of interest for government in an environment where budgets are tight – efficiency is always a draw.

“Organizations realized that it was much more efficient to look to a center of excellence who could have economies of scale in providing service at a good price, rather than trying to recreate it a lot of smaller times,” said Chenok.

So, what exactly were the Partnership’s recommendations for a government marketplace of shared services?

This proposed marketplace, or roundtable, as Chenok also refers to it, would standardize rules and practices across all government agencies. It would also bring together all providers in one place so that decision-makers could select their best option.

“You need to have a central gluing function. The report recommends that a central office provide that governance framework. This central office would be a coordinator… to exchange information and provide guidance across agencies,” said Chenok.

An element of this central office would be a standardized performance assessment for shared services, so that government officials could compare the quality of services they’re receiving.

This approach would have many benefits. “In a marketplace, you know what’s out there to buy… And so you know the difference choices, you know what the prices are, you now have a general idea of the quality of those services, because you know people that have bought it,” explained Chenok. “It’s a fairly simple concept.”

Another benefit to this approach would be transparency. According to Chenok, allowing the government to see the array of services available would allow them to assess a clearer picture of what’s on the market, which would foster constructive competition and combat the delivery of poor services. There would be a great deal more accountability. “The marketplace really creates transparency for buyers and sellers, so that they can create an exchange of value in the way that we do in our commercial or private life,” he said.

What is the viability and future of these recommendations, according to Chenok? There has apparently been a great deal of support for advancing shared services at the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget. Chenok predicts seeing a big push in the next two years to further develop a shared services marketplace.

When it comes to shared services for the government, it’s important to know your options to get the best quality. And, it can be as easy and painless as a trip to the local market.

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