Treasury CIO brings rest of agency around on shared services

Wednesday - 5/14/2014, 10:06am EDT

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The Treasury Department has done a 180 degree turn on the need for and benefits of an enterprise content management system.

That wasn't the case three years ago when having an ECM system was a dirty word. No one at Treasury wanted to pay for it, and many thought it would fail.

"We felt like that was a really important environment for Treasury to have and was needed all over the place. We've turned that into an enterprise service that has grown. I think it was in 2013 that it grew by 300 percent," said Robyn East, Treasury's chief information officer. "We have built a number of applications that are in use or being adopted across Treasury. For example, there is an electronic case management system that is generic enough to be adopted by different kinds of offices that have case management needs with a little bit of configuration tweaking here and there. Another important application to note is we've built a suspension and debarment system that's being looked at for adoption across the federal government, and we've already done demonstrations for quite a number of other agencies."

East said Treasury's move to the ECM system, which is based on Microsoft's SharePoint software, is part of the way the agency is transforming to more readily accept shared services.

She said the fears of losing control and no longer using their own systems, and the need to create confidence in shared services more broadly, took a lot of time.

"We have a very active governance structure, and it's been a success, and it's still growing," East said. "Anytime you are providing support for a shared service like this, if you don't have the voice of the people who are the customers of the system involved in making decisions in it, your risk of failure is much higher. And yes, the shared services council was the one who originally supported the creation of a budget that would allow ECM to go forward as a shared service and be what it is today."

East said the ECM capability will grow over the next year, especially at the bureau level.

She said shared services have been a big focus over the last few years. The shared services council is led by deputy bureau executives to ensure collaboration around these common capabilities. She said bureau CIOs also are playing a bigger role in overseeing the technology behind these new services.

East said shared services also are about contracting for commodity IT. She said Treasury has several programs in place to take advantage of strategic sourcing.

"For example, we're going to have consistent standards on types of printers across all of Treasury. This is something that already has been agreed to, so we can control the costs better, particularly of the toner, which is where the big costs is when you're talking about printing costs. That's an initiative under way," she said. "We already have under way an initiative to get to standard desktops and laptops, and we are looking at wireless services on the cellular side and other wireless devices, trying to consolidate devices there and get to a strategic place with those."

East said the move to shared services is for two reasons. The first is cost savings and efficiencies. But she said Treasury also realized there are collaboration needs and business reasons to move to shared infrastructure or common capabilities that are clearer now than ever before.

"One of the things we are working on now is back in the security architecture arena and also in identity management," she said. "A big initiative that is coming up for us is working across Treasury and beyond with some of the other financial sector entities to create federated identity management, so we can further use that collaboration environment, which is a little kluge to do right now without being able to federate identity management."

She said the current security architecture has been based on the high level standard under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), but Treasury needs more flexibility to make sharing with other non-federal entities easier.

"Striking the balance there requires some redesign of how we do security for different systems, so that's what we are working on," she said. "It depends on what the application is and what our current or anticipated customer base is. We just need to build in that flexibility, and there are a number of different ways to do that technically. We haven't necessarily figured all of that out yet, but we are working on the design that will give us the flexibility we will need."

East said Treasury is talking with several partners across the financial sectors and is getting ready to kick off a federated identity management pilot program with the ECM program.

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