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30 Agencies Pursue Shared Services, Most With IT Modernization in Mind

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Thirty federal agencies are “in the process of moving toward shared solutions,” according to Beth Angerman, executive director of the General Services Administration’s Unified Shared Services Management office.

Angerman, speaking yesterday at ACT-IAC’s Category Management Conference, made the remarks to squelch the “myth” that there isn’t enough uptick in shared services among agencies. USSM is a recently launched office within GSA designed to enable the delivery of high-value shared services across government.

“I say we could always be doing more, but my mighty office of seven keeps quite busy,” Angerman said. “Not everybody likes the idea of doing shared services, and usually it’s because agencies don’t want to do things in a standardized way. But it’s becoming an important tool for agency heads.”

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Angerman drew a parallel between the shared services and category management efforts, both championed by GSA under the Obama administration, but neither yet receiving acceptance by the Trump administration. (Angerman did say her office was “having good discussions” with the new administration.)

Both efforts, she said, are designed to “fundamentally address issues government has today,” but she admitted challenging the status quo of each agency requiring its own IT infrastructure or mission support services is difficult.

“The shift paradigm makes us not the popular kids in school,” said Angerman, who compared asking agencies to share services with asking young children to share.

Yet, Angerman said, dozens of agencies are looking to shared services as a potential tool to modernize their IT infrastructures. Aging IT is a looming problem for federal agencies, presenting both performance and security issues. Old systems, Angerman said, are “likely to be targeted first.” Angerman also advocated for more partnership with industry “that helps keep technology modern.”

“It’s OK until something breaks,” she said.

The argument for shared services is also one of common sense, Angerman noted. She rhetorically asked whether, for example, each agency requires its own mission support services. If not, it makes sense to share those services. Angerman said the shared services approach “works” when the government comes together and realizes it has more shared commonalities than differences. Those commonalities can be opportunities for agencies to use shared services and, in theory, save money and improve efficiencies.

“I challenge us today to stay the course because it is the right thing to do,” Angerman said.

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