Unleashing the Power of Shared Services

By Lara Shane

March 4, 2014

As agencies face persistent budget pressures, shared services are receiving renewed interest and scrutiny. Many government leaders are opening their minds to these strategies as a way to deliver services more efficiently -- and this is good news.

The potential for shared services is far greater than what exists today. Most efforts center on consolidating a single back-office function, such as human resources or finance, to serve the whole organization. The more innovative agencies have pulled together several of these support functions. But with imagination, federal leaders can move beyond these traditional models.

A new report, “Helping Government Deliver: Transforming Mission and Support Services” by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, presents a vision in which agencies share not only support functions, but also mission-critical activities such as satellite mapping -- sharing not just within one department, but across many.

Some organizations already are moving in this direction, pushing beyond traditional shared services. Most notably, state and municipal governments that were hard hit by budget shortfalls several years ago, have some lessons to offer the federal sector.

These examples demonstrate how agencies can share resources more creatively -- within their own boundaries and across government. But it isn’t easy to drive this kind of fundamental change. It takes a clear and compelling business case, strong leadership and continual performance measurement to drive improvements.

Agencies that overcame challenges and transformed how certain functions and services are delivered were rewarded with improved operations, greater efficiency, cost savings and satisfied customers.

The Office of Management and Budget historically has been supportive of these efforts, but officials there will need to use a little more muscle and creativity to really change the way government does business. The agency will need to use a carrot, a stick and every other trick to overcome the entrenched, stovepiped business processes that dominate today.                                                  

Let’s hope this will be a component of the much-anticipated President’s Management Agenda.

Lara Shane is vice president of research and communications at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

(Image via Lightspring/Shutterstock.com)

By Lara Shane

March 4, 2014