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Feds Launch Shared Services Initiative

Federal agencies will each have to create two shared IT services in 2012, in push to accomplish more with less.

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Federal agencies will be required to move at least two IT services to a shared services approach next year as part of more comprehensive shared services plans that agencies must develop by March 2012, the White House said in a draft strategy memo released Friday.

Agencies will be mandated to look first to shared services rather than new development wherever possible, according to the draft strategy. "Wherever a business process or IT function can be reasonably altered in order to utilize an existing asset as opposed to performing new development, agencies must do so," the strategy document says, adding that the strategy will change the "default setting" for IT investment from new development to re-use of resources.

Shared First will be a multi-phased effort, beginning with the adoption of intra-agency shared services to bring centralized IT services to agencies that remain too often fragmented today. The strategy will then push into intra-agency shared services for commodity IT, and finally shared services in more strategic IT.

The strategy frames the effort as part of a way for federal agencies to "do more with less funding." It shows how the federal IT budget has almost doubled over the last decade, but says that that funding has resulted in duplicative and sometimes wasteful IT spending. A 2010 review revealed "hundreds of redundancies in support and commodity IT resources," the strategy says.

[ How can taxpayers know whether they are getting their money's worth from government IT? Read Federal IT Needs A Cost-Savings Dashboard. ]

While past administrations have pushed to get agencies to embrace shared services, budget constraints and the presence of complementary IT efforts like cloud computing and data center consolidation could help propel Shared First forward.

Agencies have increasingly adopted shared services for intra-agency purposes during the last couple of years, pooling together resources to offer centralized email and other shared services. For example, the U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are teaming up to create a shared mobile app store, and the Department of Defense is pushing services to adopt centralized email served up by the Defense Information Systems Agency (the Army's already signed on, and others will likely follow).

The so-called Shared First strategy is what could be the first in a larger series of "first" strategies that VanRoekel has labeled Future First. The Future First principles would be efforts to "jumpstart the government's adoption of new technologies and approaches," as VanRoekel has put it. The term is a play off the Cloud First strategy launched by VanRoekel's predecessor, former CIO Vivek Kundra, which requires agencies to assess cloud computing as their first option when making major new IT system investments.

The document released last week represents just the first draft of VanRoekel's Shared First strategy. The final strategy document is not due out until April 2012, and the Office of Management and Budget is seeking input on the draft.

How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)

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