Agencies have great potential to consolidate their operations, but they need more help from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management to make it happen, according to a new report.
Released Thursday by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, the report noted the Obama administration has put a premium on moving toward “shared services” — that is, when agencies combine operations under one provider to hopefully save money and boost efficiency. However, progress has been slow going, the report said.
“Agency leaders can foster transformation in their agencies but can only go so far without sustained support from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management to demonstrate that shared services is a top management priority,” authors of the report wrote.
For the study, researchers queried 18 agency leaders, including 11 chief financial officers, about their efforts to consolidate operations, particularly those involving acquisition, financial management, human resources and IT. Interviewees noted a range of challenges to adopting shared services, including a lack of clear data that demonstrates the value of shared services. Some also were concerned about the amount of transition time, the difficulty of comparing cost and performance of federal shared services providers, and how such a transition could affect their workforce.
But the report did show some good signs: Authors noted the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs were aggressively taking steps to embrace shared services. For example, HUD is outsourcing its financial management and human resources functions to the Treasury Department.
In the report, authors recommended that OMB:
- Establish clear benchmarks and target dates, and hold agency leaders accountable for meeting these deadlines.
- Create standard service-level agreements for agencies to use as templates and build a repository.
- Collaborate with the General Services Administration to put together a team of experts who can help agencies.
- Fund shared services pilots and track their impact.
As for OPM, it recommended the agency put out a strategic guide for agencies that includes options for moving its workforce toward shared services.
Neither OMB nor OPM responded to requests for comment about the report prior to deadline.