'Uncle Sam's List' launched to boost awareness of shared services

Monday - 4/22/2013, 6:00pm EDT

Federal News Radio Executive Editor Jason Miller on "In Depth" with Francis Rose

Download mp3

Uncle Sam's List is expected to give agencies a one-stop shop for finding and buying shared services.

The Chief Information Officers Council launched the new database as part of the administration's strategy to get more agencies to use existing services instead of buying new ones.

"Uncle Sam's List (USL) is an internal community within the MAX.gov internal government collaboration site that is maintained by the CIO Council's Shared Services subcommittee," wrote an OMB official in an email in response to questions. "USL provides information on IT shared service areas, providers, and related existing contract vehicles. There are listings for approximately a dozen commodity IT service areas and a dozen support IT service areas. The Shared Services subcommittee determines which areas, providers and contracts get listed."

Uncle Sam's List was one of a handful of new features detailed in the CIO Council's shared-services implementation guide released last week.

"This guide provides implementation guidance to help agencies move toward a 'Shared-First' culture. It represents the start of the discussion and actions that each agency needs to take in order to determine the future design and performance of their organization," the council wrote in a blog post. "Included in this guide is a high level process and key considerations for defining, establishing and implementing interagency shared services to help achieve organizational goals, improve performance, increase return on investment and promote innovation. It includes specific steps that should be considered for identifying shared services candidates, making the business case, examining potential funding models and using agency agreements."

The implementation guide follows the shared-services strategy OMB released in May 2012. In that strategy, the administration gave agencies until Dec. 31 to move two technologies to shared services. OMB has not offered a public update on how agencies met the Dec. 31 deadline.

Agencies had until April 1 to submit their first annual enterprise road map that addresses their business and technology architecture, IT asset inventory, a commodity IT consolidation program, a Line of Business service plan and, new for this year, an IT shared-service plan, which describes what common services the agency will take part in between 2013 and 2017.

The implementation guide breaks down shared services into three categories:

  • Commodity IT — includes data centers, networks, software and mobile hardware and software.

  • Support IT — which includes the more traditional shared services such as human resources, financial management, cybersecurity and grants management. Last month, OMB mandated agencies move to a financial management shared-services provider when they need to upgrade their systems.

  • Mission critical IT — This is where the traditional idea of shared services veers off course. It's a shared service done by one agency or just a few agencies that is specific to their day-to-day goals, such as identity management at the border, which may be something only the Homeland Security Department does, or maybe just DHS and the State Department do and could share resources.

The OMB official said Uncle Sam's List will help agencies navigate through the service areas and see mappings to providers and acquisition vehicles.

The mapping of providers and acquisition vehicles also could customer agencies understand the capabilities of each provider against the customer agency's needs.

The database also gives agencies a way to track the provider's services and service levels over time.

The OMB official says one of the more innovative parts of the implementation guide is how it explains how to identify and implement metrics that will track — and maintain — service quality levels, as well as how to establish remediation and escalation procedures to effectively handle situations when service levels are not where they should be.

These metrics are, in part, found in the post-deployment area, where OMB and the CIO Council spend a fair amount of time detailing areas such as how agencies should take a more active management role in shared services where the customer agency experts do more than just hand it off to the provider and get quarterly reports. The guide stated the agency customer experts should both focus on the provider, but also make sure their own agency customers' needs are met.

The document also offers insight into dispute resolution, ensuring industry trends around technology are adopted by the provider and creating the right exit strategies for how the customer agency should move to a different provider or even bring it in house if necessary. The guide offers six things to consider including making sure it's clear in the service level agreement (SLA) that the shared service provider must assist with the transition, and the customer agency owns all key documents.

The OMB official said the Shared Services Subcommittee recently established a "Shared Services Executive Steering Board" that meets monthly and includes representatives from all of the major Lines of Business, E-Government Initiatives, and Shared Service Centers.

"They will be the governance structure around this effort to deal with the wide-ranging issues and challenges that come up," the official said.

RELATED STORIES:

OMB gives agencies four months to figure out shared services

OMB mandates use of shared service providers for agency financial systems