Imagine if a typical American family, instead of sharing a single cell phone plan, purchased separate service contracts for each household member. The total monthly cost would quickly get too expensive to continue this inefficient spending.
This in many ways is how the government traditionally has handled its financial management, acquisition, human resources and information technology operations, with agencies spending billions of dollars running their own separate systems instead of sharing some of these administrative functions with other federal organizations to create efficiencies and save money.
Elizabeth Angerman, the executive director of the recently created Unified Shared Services Management Office at the General Services Administration, has begun to change this dynamic, putting guidance and resources in place to help agencies consolidate and transform their administrative systems. Her efforts, which began in 2015, are in line with a recent presidential executive order on reorganizing government that calls for agencies to consider merging redundant administrative functions.
As head of the GSA office, Angerman has turned an inconsistent, ad hoc system for adopting shared services into a clear decision-making process for federal leaders to understand their options and the potential benefits of outsourcing administrative functions to other agencies. She created guidelines and is actively helping agencies plan and move to shared services.
“Beth’s passion, leadership, expertise and commitment have been the driving force behind the new push to implement shared services across the government,” said Chip Fulghum, the acting undersecretary for management at the Department of Homeland Security. “She has created a governance structure to evaluate and implement solutions where none existed before.”
Ellen Herbst, the assistant secretary for administration at the Department of Commerce, said Angerman has created a network among federal and private-sector parties interested in expanding the role of shared services in government, and has assisted agencies in overcoming barriers that have hindered progress.
“Beth has become very much a bridge, a facilitator, a convener, a creator and the upholder of the community of people who want to move forward,” Herbst. “She is the glue that holds this effort together across like-minded agencies.”
Angerman, for example, has helped the Department of Veterans Affairs begin shifting its financial management system to the Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center, and has assisted the Department of Justice in moving its payroll and some human resources functions to the USDA.
In all cases, agency migrations to shared services have been designed to turn over administrative functions to those who are experts in the field, and create efficiencies and cost savings while freeing up agencies to focus their time and resources on their core missions.
Angerman and her staff created a step-by-step guide to shed light on shared services opportunities, the risks and the benefits, and how to constructively move forward. Angerman said 30 agencies currently are using her office’s playbook, with many planning to adopt the shared services model for a variety of administrative functions.
“The progress for shared services has been fragmented and inconsistent across different presidential administrations,” said Angerman. “My job is to be a change agent, to get the government to do things differently. That means being a collaborator, listening to the challenges and finding solutions.”
Dave Mader, a former Office of Management and Budget official who helped create the GSA shared services office, said Angerman has “the drive, energy and commitment to get things done.” She has an understanding of how government works and the ability to provide clear direction, he added.
“Beth is creative and able to take a good idea and deliver something that is real and meaningful,” Mader said. “With federal budgets constrained, Beth’s effort to promote shared services will help lead the way to creating government efficiencies and improving effectiveness.”
Emily Murphy, a GSA senior adviser, said Angerman has been collaborative, worked successfully to get buy-in from new political appointees and the career staff, is “passionate about her work,” and has been “eager to engage and bring solutions to problems faced by the agencies.”
Angerman said she sees the adoption of shared services as “an opportunity to change government in a material way.”
“We are seeking to build a coalition of federal leaders, agencies, government councils and members of the private sector who recognize that we need to do things differently in government,” Angerman said. “We need to show taxpayers we are doing smarter things with their money.”