The perennial call for public sector reform has not slackened. The pain of austerity measures and the pressures for increased efficiency heighten that call.  And, the hype around “smart cities” amps up the pressure for municipal leaders faced with decisions about which problems to attack first, and which tools are most appropriate.  But most organizations are not starting from a clean slate. That’s exactly the issue. In most cases we’re talking about reform, about doing things differently, not starting from scratch. 

When we asked government leaders what their top priorities are, improving the customer experience comes in on top: 68% report the customer experience is either a high or critical priority.  But reducing costs is right up there with it. That’s the age-old do-more-with-less mantra.  And, from a technology perspective their top priority is to upgrade or replace legacy systems, which might not sound like the wiz bang “smart” technology we’ve been hearing so much about.  But it’s likely the smartest thing these governments can do; and when they do, they should do it together. 

That always reminds me of the drought inspired message of the 1930s: Save Water Bathe with a Friend.  My great aunt had that poster up in the bathroom of her cabin in Vermont, and that practical message has stuck with me ever since.  It’s the idea of sharing and using scarce resources more efficiently.  But there is much more to it than that… maybe that’s why it’s stuck with me all these years.  It’s about doing it better, and improving the outcomes… OK, I won’t develop the analogy any further…

That’s what shared services in government are about these days.  Yes, there is an efficiency argument, and cost savings. But as the recent Forrester report on the subject demonstrates, it goes beyond cost.   It really is about doing more with less.  The report, Beyond Cost: Achieve Better Government Outcomes Through Shared Services – tells the story about how the shift to a Business Technology agenda – accelerated by the Age of the Customer Citizen – drives shared services in government.


Cost may have been the driver for early sharing efforts, but advantages go well beyond saving money. Sharing infrastructure and applications facilitates collaboration through standard processes and data formats. Benefits-led programs are more sustainable than those that derive their value from cost savings alone. In the age of the citizen, it's these benefits that will drive further collaboration and sharing across governments.

Here are a few examples discussed in the report:

  • Integrated contact centers facilitate access to information and services . . .
  • . . . and provide city leaders with better insights into citizens' needs.
  • Shared business applications increases visibility — and efficiency — across organizations.
  • Integrated customer information improves case management.
  • Common asset management facilitates coordinated maintenance.
  • Shared mission-critical technologies improve service delivery.
  • Open government and data sharing platforms lower costs, facilitate transparency, . . .
  • . . . and make it a lot easier to create apps that scale.
  • Enhancements on a shared platform are shared. 

Take a look at the report, Beyond Cost: Achieve Better Government Outcomes Through Shared Services, and please share your stories about the business benefits of shared technology services in the comments here.