GSA recommends setting fees for shared Web services

type of fee should your agency charge for Web services?

Any agency that offers centrally organized Web services needs to establish a
fee-for-services policy, the General Services Administration recommends.

Cost-sharing will promote efficient use of Web services, GSA’s Office of
Governmentwide Policy said in a recently released draft version of a Web site management

“Charging for centralized Web services will motivate both users and Web site
management to provide systems that meet real needs. However, the real measure of a Web
site charge-back system is: Will it increase the efficient and effective use of the Web
site?” the draft said.

Most agencies do not charge subagencies and bureaus fees to support centralized Web
sites, said Rich Kellett, director of GSA’s Emergency Information Technologies
Policies Division. But agencies need to address the issue because the in-creased use of
electronic commerce will make Web services more costly and complex, he said.

“A charge-back system for a shared Web site is desirable because Web site services
are expensive and easily misused,” according to the draft guidance, Charge-back
Issues for the Internet.

Settling on the appropriate fee is the challenge. If an agency charges too little, the
result might be wasteful overuse by some customers, the draft said.

On the other hand, too high a fee could drive customers to seek Web support services
elsewhere and result in agencies abandoning projects of significant value, the GSA draft

The guidance recommends that agencies differentiate between discretionary and
nondiscretionary expenses.

Discretionary expenses, such as servers, salaries, communications lines and
administration, ought to be planned for in the regular budget process.

“This minimizes the perception that early users are paying for the majority of the
investment costs up front and reduces the allocation issues in determining how to price
long-term investments,” the draft concluded.

Nondiscretionary expenses, such as running list servers and Web conferences, ought be
accounted for by figuring the demands on the site management staff.

It is important, the draft said, that an agency know its true expenses in providing Web

“Any agency that does not know its real information systems costs … has no
basis for making rational investment decisions in information technology,” GSA said.

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