How to build a shared services online marketplace

The Partnership for Public Service has advocated an approach for agency cost cutting and efficiency that sets up models for shared services architectures.

The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit focused on “transforming the way government works,” wants to help agencies save money and improve efficiency by setting up business and application models for agency shared services.

“By sharing resources and services across common management areas … federal agencies can leverage efficiencies of scale and improve the quality of their core operations by working within an entire department and, ideally, across departments,” according to the group.

Interest in helping agencies set up systems for sharing services has recently been underscored by budget reductions as well as by a recommendation in the presidential budget for the increased adoption of shared services.

To pursue the goal, the Partnership recently created a “Shared Services Roundtable,” a consortium of federal and industry shared service providers dedicated to working out business rules and systems architectures for setting up a governmentwide approach to shared services.

According to the group, agencies are struggling to find low-cost service options. “The lack of a centralized, transparent and competitive shared services marketplace has greatly impeded the ability of federal agencies to assess providers based on past performance, drive competitive pricing and ensure compatibility with current systems, it said in a recent white paper.

In it, the group said it has concluded that agencies need a centralized marketplace that will enable them to compare and contrast providers’ personnel and expertise, cost savings and performance benefits.

To carry out plan, the Partnership has proposed setting a governmentwide governance model led by an interagency leadership team working with the Office of Management and Budget. The team would be responsible for “crafting enterprisewide guidelines that direct each line of business to follow standardized policies for governance, funding methods and performance management.”

“This team needs the clear directive and resources to grow federal shared services, provide advice to agencies, mediate disputes and regulate the marketplace where agencies can assess available provider options and make informed choices,” the group added.

To set the marketplace in motion, the group also proposed creating an online searchable catalog of providers by service area, overseen by a shared services leader. The website, “would provide choices to agencies along with data and information to help them make decisions that fit their needs,” according the partnership.

The partnership’s recommendations for building a shared services marketplace include:

1. Give authority and resources to a central federal leader to be responsible for driving, overseeing and supporting expansion of governmentwide shared services (OMB, Congress).

2. Conduct an assessment of current costs and performance to estimate potential benefits of migrating to shared services and to provide agencies with key metrics.

3. Reduce the risk to agencies moving to shared service providers by establishing interoperability standards for similar service areas (OMB, providers).

4. Adopt joint performance standards for providers and customers to ensure both parties are meeting their obligations for a successful migration to shared services.

5. Create a centralized governmentwide catalog or database of available shared services  (OMB, providers).

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