Treasury begins shared services quest to educate, integrate

Thursday - 5/8/2014, 4:08am EDT

Jason Miller, Executive Editor, Federal News Radio

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The Treasury Department's Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation is starting to put the bigger pieces of the shared services puzzle in place.

It started by approving four shared service providers — one new one and three current providers — on May 2. Now OFIT is on an education and data quest.

The office issued two requests for information to industry in the past few weeks, including one to begin telling industry about the role contractors will play in this governmentwide initiative.

One RFI , issued May 7, announced an industry day on May 21 where all four shared service providers — the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and Treasury — will present current capabilities and those they would like to have in the future.

OFIT also wants to gather market research on private sector solutions and capabilities that could be of assistance to OFIT (in its oversight role), the FSSPs (in their service provider role) and customers or prospective customers) in 11 different areas, including optimizing shared services, assisting in customer migrations and identifying alternative contract approaches such as share-in- savings or public-private partnerships.

Then on May 22, OFIT will host an agency day so potential customer agencies can learn about the shared services offerings and ask questions about the initiative.

Data interfaces are hard, expensive

The second RFI is focused on data management.

"One of the RFIs we put out is maybe there is a government-wide way we can move data around easier than building all of these interfaces because interfaces cost a lot of money and, once you build it and you want to move, you have to build it again," said Beth Angerman, director of OFIT, during a panel discussion on shared services Wednesday at the Government Performance Summit in Washington, which was sponsored by the Performance Institute and the Association of Government Accountants. "So how do we be more proactive in moving data so you can move it across those providers in human resources or procurement, if you want to."

The April 18 RFI asks vendors for insights into "the development and implementation of a shared data transfer capability (e.g., enterprise bus) to facilitate the interaction and communication between mutually interacting software applications. Software applications may include financial systems, procurement systems, e-invoicing systems, inventory systems, or other mixed systems. These software applications may or may not be owned and operated by the federal government."

Responses to the RFI are due May 16.

The RFIs are more pieces to this financial management shared services puzzle.

Treasury, which is leading this administration effort, is trying to get data and information out to the agencies so they really get what's expected of them and what they can expect.

At the conference, audience members sought answers about how the initiative works, and the RFIs and several other document or data releases over the next two weeks are part of those answers.

Angerman says the OFIT will post those documents on its website.

"We are going to publish all of the providers' applications, the actual application itself, so most of the content they provided as part of their response," she said. "We're going to publish all of the FAME documentation so the process agencies go through and the artifacts that would be required at every different stage. We are working on case studies for some of the experiences that we've already had so the cabinet level agencies and the providers already are working with and some of the lessons they've learned along the way. So that will all be available the end of this month."

4 steps to decide

Angerman said FAME stands for the FIT Agency Modernization Process and is a four- step process to help agencies decide if they are ready to move.

The first step is for agencies to determine if they are in need of a financial management system upgrade in the first place. OFIT is putting decision models in place to help agencies with that research.

The second phase looks at who the providers are, whether they have the capacity to bring on another agency and what the provider's needs are.

The third is creating expectations around service level agreements and meeting the demands of both parties through a shared governance process.

"FIT is working right now with the community as part of the President's Management Agenda to identify performance metrics that are relevant to CFOs as they make decisions on their business," Angerman said. "In addition to that, we have to have the providers capture the same metrics so we can compare. We need to be doing this efficiently and if we're not, we need to look for areas of improvement. That's the mechanism we are going to poll the providers to ensure they continue to deliver customer service to the expectations of the customers."