New GSA program to standardize shared services

The General Services Administration is setting up a program office to help agencies get over the most common hurdles to using shared services.

“We’ve been told to go do shared services, but the road hasn’t been easy,” said John Sullivan, director of GSA’s Information Resources Management Division, Thursday at an event sponsored by the industry group AFCEA Bethesda.

The new office is “trying to reduce the friction between supply and demand,...

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The General Services Administration is setting up a program office to help agencies get over the most common hurdles to using shared services.

“We’ve been told to go do shared services, but the road hasn’t been easy,” said John Sullivan, director of GSA’s Information Resources Management Division, Thursday at an event sponsored by the industry group AFCEA Bethesda.

The new office is “trying to reduce the friction between supply and demand, help address well-documented challenges, and help agencies make the journey easier,” he said.

Dominic Sale, who is the acting associate deputy administrator in GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, agreed to launch the program at the request of the Chief Information Officer’s Council. Sale’s team is trying to create “data-driven advisory services for agency executives, helping them with their toughest policy implementation challenges, including migrating to shared solutions,” said a government source, who requested anonymity because they didn’t get permission to speak to the press. “That’s really something that has been missing in our past efforts.”

Unlike the council, GSA can devote full-time resources and staff to the effort, hopefully leading to better coordination with other GSA services and across government shared-services providers, the source said.

GSA is trying to work with agency CIOs to build a healthy marketplace, rather than force them to adopt shared services, said Sullivan.

“I don’t think there’s a hammer. The whole approach is about meeting customers’ demands,” he said.

The Office of Management and Budget “is not transferring authority to GSA.”

The new program office is working from a list of recommendations made by the CIO Council’s shared services task force. Most of them seek to answer, “How do you standardize, or create some sense of order, to the acquisition, funds transfer, customer readiness assessments, and [agencies’] working with vendors?” Sullivan said.

GSA is doing market analysis to find out which agencies need which services. For example, he said, the agency is asking CIOs about their specific needs. On the other side, GSA is cataloging services provided by agencies, and learning which of those departments could handle more customers. The effort is building off of Uncle Sam’s List, a database of federal shared services that the CIO Council and OMB launched. GSA now will develop and maintain the list.

In that same vein, OMB also launched an Interagency Contracts Database earlier this year in an effort to ensure communication on existing contracts among agencies.

While GSA began this work just two weeks ago, it already has decided to take a two-pronged approach to big and small agencies, Sullivan said.

“The smallest agencies aren’t position to be a provider for anyone else. They’re positioned to be customers. The big departments already have their strategies. They are providing [services] internally and, in some cases, externally to other departments,” he said. “We’re not here to replace any work going on in the departments, but to supplement it.”

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