IT centralization and shared services projects typically focus on potential savings and efficiencies but it’s critical to involve users in informing those decisions, says a blog post on the CIO Council site by several members of GSA’s 18F program.
“Many guides on centralization focus on IT as the ends not the means to achieving an agency’s mission. This often results in expensive vendor contracts that eventually get tossed out the window a few years later,” it says. “Directly engaging users while evaluating IT centralization can result in services that work better for the people they serve. This means less rework and fewer support issues down the road. An iterative process, not a waterfall approach, also decreases risk.”
It cites as a positive example a project to make federal agency websites more consistent. “18F joined forces with representatives from different federal agencies, and using human-centered design principles, worked to unify multiple interfaces, navigation tools, colors, fonts, and other visual identities. Since launching in 2015, over 180 government projects have adopted the system,” it said. “We’ve analyzed other instances of centralization as well, and unfortunately some didn’t go as expected.”
“The goal of IT centralization should be to get your users to where they want to be more quickly, and to do so in a way that is cost-effective and compliant. It’s critical to keep a user-centered approach throughout this process,” the posting said. That should be taken into consideration, it said, when deciding whether to centralize; when working with vendors to build a centralized system if that option is chosen; and after the new system is in place.