This commentary offers practical guidance to political appointees whose agencies are interested in transitioning to a Shared Service Provider (SSP), whether for financial systems, Information Technology (IT), Human Resources (HR), or acquisition. Based on our experience and meetings held with Shared Service Providers and their customer agencies, we developed a list of key areas for consideration. While there are many steps required to complete a shared services transition, this commentary highlights some key areas that agencies need to get right in order to be successful and help the organization transition smoothly to an SSP.
There are four phases to a shared services transition.
A key lesson learned from agencies that recently converted to a Social Service Provider (SSP) was the need for an assessment phase to identify the reasons behind the conversion and the expected benefits of that conversion. While this is not a comprehensive list, we recommend the following.
Meet with existing customers of the different SSPs to understand in detail their experience and discuss customer service requirements, SLAs, governance, and unique business processes. This will help validate that the SSP under consideration can meet service level requirements.
Hire or engage an Agency Advocate. Agencies that have a smoother transition to an SSP have engaged an Advocate. The Advocate could be a federal employee or from private industry. The advocate’s role would be to assist the organization in focusing on key areas to gain value from the relationship with the SSP. The Advocate can provide value to all phases of the project, in the assessment phase, services provided by the advocate would include:
The agreement with the SSP will include an SLA. During the assessment phase, the agency should work with the SSP to determine the performance metrics that will align with the agency’s operational needs. SLAs can be defined around many different metrics that are important to business operations, such as system availability, timeliness of data availability, quality of data, service desk response time and communication about systems upgrades. While we encourage the review of other SLAs, it is important to get beyond the generic SLA format and discuss what is really important to each organization. This helps both organizations get to the heart of what is really going to matter from a performance perspective in the ongoing relationship. Even though in the federal space SLAs may be more challenging to enforce, it is important that each agency reviews and studies them to determine their minimum requirements. This will begin the conversation with a provider so both parties can make an informed decision whether the business partnership makes sense.
To benefit from a transition to an SSP it is important that agencies invest the time and perform research prior to selecting and transitioning to a provider. The assessment phase coupled with careful planning and additional investments will help realize greater benefits sooner.
Nadine Cipriani is a Senior Manager in Ernst & Young’s Advisory Services practice. Nadine has over 19 years of experience collaborating with Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Deputy CFOs, and Assistant Commissioners (ACs) on a variety of issues in order to accomplish high level goals of the various Administrations.
Roberta Mourao is a Principal with Ernst & Young. Roberta has 25 years of experience with the federal government consulting and commercial industry. Roberta has a passion for performance improvement and works with government agencies to help them efficiently and effectively achieve the delivery of their missions to citizens.