For years now, everything in Federal IT has been services. Software as a service, IT as a service, services as a service. You name it ... services are here and now. In 2012, OMB published their shared services strategy. It was a great moment, where shared services were getting some serious attention at the highest levels. But that was 2012! We are nearing the 2 year anniversary of that document and we must ask ourselves why shared services are not more pervasive around government.
The fact is that there are some well established shared service providers around town. The National Finance Center, DHS, and Interior Business Center come to mind. But what is holding up the massive proliferation of Agencies selling to other Agencies? Several things come to mind including the budget and movement of money issues. That being said, the issue that I think is not discussed enough is the standardization of the business of shared services.
The business of shared services is the business wrapper of processes and people that deliver the shared services themselves. Think about walking into a McDonald's anywhere around the country. You know what to expect. The process is generally the same, the menus are generally the same, the trained people are generally the same. This is a good thing.
Now years into shared service delivery efforts, it is time to standardize the business of shared services. If Agency X is going to deliver shared services, then Agency Y should know what they are getting and how they will get it. A common set of expectations should be established as to the functions and processes that must surround any shared service delivery organization. In fact, these standards should not only apply to Agencies selling to Agencies, but should also apply as requirements for private sector shared service providers to sell to the government.
A follow up to the OMB shared services strategy is in order. We need shared services policy and directives that instruct Agencies on what should be in place in order to deliver shared services. If you don't have a customer relationship function, then you can't deliver shared services. If you don't have a performance reporting capability, then you can't deliver shared services. Shared service provider organizations, both private and government, should be certified, FEDRAMP-style, that they have the business processes and training to do the job. This will go a long way towards reducing risk and increasing the likelihood of shared service proliferation.