3 agencies reap benefits of shared support functions, report says

Wednesday - 2/26/2014, 6:00pm EST

In times of constrained budgets, agencies are cutting and consolidating services to save money and resources, as they do their best to meet their agency's mission.

The Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte released a report — Helping Government Deliver: Transforming Mission and Support Services — Wednesday offering a blueprint for agencies to move beyond the typical model of sharing support functions.

"Throughout our research, we've uncovered organizations that are taking different routes to building expertise and providing important mission services," the reports says. "One is bringing several administrative services together in one place, while another is combining both support and mission services in a business center that offers expertise in a specific mission activity. A third is consolidating support and mission services for two different government entities."

The Partnership and Deloitte looked at efforts being conducted by three federal agencies: the departments of Energy and Homeland Security and NASA. They also looked at how the City of Charlotte, N.C., and Mecklenburg County, N.C., shared parts of their support services and core functions to better serve their separate missions.

Transformation Success Factors
  • Create a clear and compelling business case emphasizing financial benefits as well as the potential for non-financial benefits;

  • Focus on activities and processes that organizations have in common across the agency and rally support for new ways of doing business.

  • Put in place an organization-wide plan for effective governance if one does not exist already.

  • Encourage trust by rounding up stakeholders early and paying attention to people and culture.

  • Continually measure performance to create accountability and improve operations.

  • Recognize the importance of experienced leaders.

Source: Helping Government Deliver report

NASA's Shared Services Center (NSSC) provides 55 support services, including human resources, procurement, IT and finance, to personnel at the space agency's 10 research, space and flight centers. To streamline its support functions, NASA combined four administrative support services under one roof to serve the agency's 10 centers nationwide.

By locating its administrative support workforce in a single building, NSSC personnel were able to more easily interact with each other, contractors and government team members.

Team members could also participate in one another's reviews, which made for stronger teams and greater management accountability.

NSSC tracked customer satisfaction and found that it was routinely scoring in the 94 percent to 97 percent range, which his higher than the national average of 76 percent, according to the report.

DoE brought together its support and mission functions in one location at its Office of Environmental Management Consolidated Business Center (EMCBC). The agency was able to improve business processes, manage contaminated site closures and develop expertise across many areas.

"EMCBC demonstrates a structure for centrally managing employees with specialized skills and moving them around to serve an entire agency," the report says. "Opportunities exist for DOE to expand its EMCBC model by, for example, providing its skills in cost-estimation and project management to other agencies handling environmental cleanup. Moving to a fee-for-service model, as NSSC learned, helped the center better understand the cost of doing business, which led to efficiencies and cost savings. Merging DOE's other three business and service centers to provide functional expertise may be a logical next step."

DHS is in the early stages of using a portfolio-based model to bring together support and mission-critical services among several of its core operations.

The challenge the agency faced was trying to bring together its financial, IT, procurement and HR support services across a broad array of subcomponents

"Assessments found duplicative IT systems, weak procurement oversight and stove- piped decisionmaking, among other problems," the report says.

To address these problems, DHS established an office of program accountability and risk management, which oversees department-wide acquisition. It also standardized data management and set up a strategic investment framework.

A 2012 performance report showed that these changes had led to a number of improvements at DHS, including a better process for evaluating and overseeing investments, a more mobile workforce and enhanced business intelligence when it comes to investment decision making. Improvements were also seen in management of health care, acquisition oversight and data center consolidation.

"The organizations we researched have gained ground in transforming service delivery, while others in government have not gotten the same traction," the report says. "Each case here demonstrates how collaboration leads to achieving missions more efficiently and effectively."

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