Shared services delivery complicated by issues of accountability but tools are available, says TBS’s EA manager

Given the opportunities for cost-savings and process streamlining it represents, the shared services model of public sector IT service delivery has become something of a mantra. But the lines of accountability can become blurred in a shared services environment.

“People agree with the principles and concepts, but they’re not sure how they’re going to get to the goals,” said Mike Giovinazzo, president of We4C Solutions, at a GTEC seminar called Service Integration and Accountability Modelling: A Key to Successful Shared Service Adoption. Those goals include efficiencies through economies of scale, faster, easier and more consistent service delivery, and better management and accountability. “We have to stop reinventing the wheel,” Giovinazzo said. He used the example of a deck he’d built. He had to call the cable company to make sure he didn’t cut its lines. Then he found himself calling the phone company, then the gas company, scheduling visits from each at different times. “That’s the way we do things in government sometimes,” he said. Now, though, the utilities have gone to common delivery – one person marks all the lines. It’s convenient, and it saves both utility and customer a lot of time.

Tools are available

Some of the tools and techniques for delineating accountability in a shared services environment have been around for 10 years, said Kenneth Dagg, manager of enterprise architecture for the Treasury Board Secretariat. Unfortunately, though, they’ve not been well-advertised. The Government of Canada Strategic Reference Model (GSRM) offers a standard set of business components and definitions, integrated business models and reusable business design patterns. The Business Transformation Enablement Program (BTEP) provides the methods for applying GSRM to make business decisions. One of the advantages of the models is that they’re not adapted from a private-sector environment and applied to government. “That’s one of the real values of it. It’s public-sector based,” Dagg said. “We have applied this. This isn’t just some pipe dream.”

Dagg said governments have identified 19 service output types that are generic to government, from funds to laws. “We’ve been working for four years to find the 20th. We haven’t yet,” he said. A Service Integration and Accountability Model (SIAM) depicts accountability between inter-related services and service providers. “SIAMs are not about workflow,” Dagg said. In a licensing situation, for example, the various service providers involved are accountable to each other to allow delivery of the process. “Eventually, someone is accountable for getting that valued output to the recipient.”

For example, Giovinazzo said, a 911 service isn’t accountable for putting out your fire – its role is to make sure the right information gets to the right service. Some of the processes common to police, fire and ambulances services have been moved out. The processes must be treated as a service – they have to know how many calls to expect and staffing levels, etc., Giovinazzo said. Once the infrastructure is in place, that infrastructure cascades out as a service, Giovinazzo said.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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