While the Quality Service Management Office (QSMO) continues to outline its long-term strategy for federal financial management, the Bureau of Fiscal Service does not forget the work of the past two decades.
The beginnings and successes and failures of attempting to consolidate and standardize the agencies’ financial systems weigh heavily on this government-wide effort.
Matt Miller, acting commissioner for the Bureau of Fiscal Service at the Treasury Department, said the four old federal shared service centers in the Departments of Agriculture, Home Affairs, Transportation and Finance will continue to play large roles in this long-standing effort.
“Part of the underlying guidelines and part of our job as a QSMO is to work with agencies in general as agencies need to be consumers in this market. But in addition to this agency engagement, we have a separate workstream or type of engagement, especially with these four legacy vendors, to determine what their appetite is to continue offering these or similar services in the market in the future. ensure that the management of your parent organization supports this. So we had a lot of contact with these vendors to get clarity, ”Miller said on Ask the CIO. “Although all agencies can be consumers of the market, we would expect that even if these federal providers want to offer their services in the market, we are still looking for their promise that they will ultimately be consumers in the market too. What I mean by that is again to really try to get to more standardized, cloud-based modern financial systems, to reduce the number of different systems that there are with all the variations in system configurations in the authorities. “
Miller said part of the discussion with the four legacy shared services providers is whether they too will modernize their technology offerings and even adopt the technology standards early on.
The challenge for these federal providers is of course the question of funding and whether or not they have the money to modernize their technology infrastructure. Funding has been one of the major barriers to the widespread adoption of shared services over the past 20 years.
“The successes [are] more common with smaller government agencies than with medium to large government agencies, although the Treasury Administrative Resource Center (ARC) provides services to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a cabinet-level agency, and most recently Transportation’s. Enterprise Service Center has just migrated the Office of Personnel Management to its joint solution. So there was a certain amount of success, ”Miller said. “We try to get the best out of it and then learn where there are opportunities. The underlying premise is standardization and reuse, being [we] can use things that are common rather than making and building customers unique. I think one of the key differentiators of this approach, which we think will be really beneficial, is much more of the focus on the customer and the customer experience. That is one of our guiding principles. “
Customer-centric, not provider-centric
The QSMO published a request for information in June, which describes in more detail how it intends to create a marketplace for the standardization and modernization of federal financial systems.
While the desire to move large agencies to these shared service providers in financial management has struggled for nearly two decades, QSMO’s approach seeks to combine the expertise of the public and private sectors.
Miller said that moving from being a supplier-centric marketplace to being a customer-centric marketplace is one of the Treasury Department’s greatest realizations in recent years.
“What we are looking for is a marketplace that allows interaction with commercial and government agencies, yet tries to allow that flexibility and choice, but incorporates the standards into the solution,” he said. “In the previous marketplace, there were these four solutions, and if they met your needs well, but especially for larger agencies, if the software or related services didn’t meet their needs, there wasn’t that much” much flexibility to respond. With this marketplace, which is a combination of commercial and government providers, we are much more likely to build a customer-oriented or solution-oriented marketplace. “
Miller said that with 56 agency financial management systems nearing the end of their lifespan by 2025, there will be significant demand for the marketplace’s services.
Miller said QSMO hopes to have its first services in place by the end of fiscal 2022 to serve some agencies like the Commerce and Homeland Security departments that are in more urgent need of modernization.
“We were very conscious of the cooperation with the industry and the agencies. We believe the industry is interested in making an important contribution to building a marketplace[ing] and that agencies are interested in seeing value in using the services, ”he said. “The hope is that we can focus on the customer experience and, by working with industry and agencies, really move the shared services needle beyond where it may have been postponed by previous initiatives.”