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Program Support Center gains momentum as one of the leading Shared Services Providers in the US

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Program Support Center (PSC) provides over 40 products and services on a competitive, fee-for-service basis for HHS, as well as approximately 14 other executive departments and 20 independent Federal Agencies.

PSC works to provide the essential functions needed to keep government agencies operating. Doing everything from managing Federal employee health clinics to delivering mail; from digital archiving to negotiating contracts; and from financial reporting to storing and distributing medical supplies.

OpenGov recently caught up withMr. Paul Bartley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Program Support, Program Support Center (PSC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Prior to becoming Director of the PSC, Mr. Bartley served as Deputy Director of the PSC.  Before this, he worked for L-3 Communications, where he led a media program that included a diverse 75+ member project team with a budget of $16 million.

Prior to that, he was Chief of Staff to the Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau and Senior Advisor for Management to the Director of Voice of America. Earlier in his career, Mr. Bartley served as a senior manager at Ernst & Young, a professional services firm.

We asked Mr. Bartley a series of questions to learn more about his role, his current focus, the range of shared services PSC provides, and his advice for counterparts in the Asia Pacific region.

What is your current area of focus for the next 1-3 years?

The Program Support Center (PSC) is keenly focused on its stated mission, which is to provide a full range of shared services to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other U.S. federal agencies, enabling them to better focus on their core missions.

In doing so, we aim to create a differentiating experience by providing the best services to meet  our customer’s individual needs while at the same time making it easy and beneficial to do business with us and gain the efficiencies of a shared service model.

Our strategic goal is to grow our operations by 10 percent in market share each year by creating value that most organizations cannot attain independently by delivering a high level of expertise, performance and efficiency.

We know that growth will follow if we provide excellent customer service through products and services that our customers value. It’s an ambitious goal; however, we truly believe that moving a dollar’s worth of activity from a poorly performing environment at an individual agency to PSC will increase the quality and ultimately lower the cost to government as a whole.

In FY 2015, PSC grew 11 percent. Over the next three years, we will continuously evaluate the range of administrative services to see which ones have the most potential for growth and will focus our energy on trying to grow those services. 

What are you and your department currently working on? What is the outcome you are looking to achieve?

PSC is rooted in our mission as I described, and renewing our focus and energy toward its fulfillment is vital to our continued success.

Our focus is on what we can control: providing our customers with the best service, and seeking out new customers to leverage our services so they focus their resources on things like curing cancer, preventing food contamination, and providing access to health services for the American people. 

The outcome we want to achieve is that at every turn we are successfully answer the question – Does this help us to meet or exceed our customer’s expectations?

How many government organizations are you collaborating with?

We provide services to agencies across all three branches of the U.S. federal government. We serve every cabinet level agency to at least some degree and most small and independent agencies, with special attention paid to our host, HHS.

PSC is one of ten major shared services providers (SSPs) in the U.S. federal government. Of the ten, PSC is the largest, providing over 40 products and services. I estimate that only 10 percent of the administrative activities of the U.S. federal government that should be performed by a U.S. federal shared service provider are currently handled by one. So we have a long way to go.    

That being said, with the amount of potential business to be gained in the market, I do not view PSC as being in direct competition with the other SSPs. Rather, PSC is collaborating with the other providers in a variety of ways to include:

  •  Benchmarking initiatives that look to create tools where agencies not using a shared services provider can identify potential opportunities to gain efficiencies and cost reductions by switching to a SSP.
  • ·Participating on a “Provider Council” which provides input to the new government-wide shared-services governance body known as the Unified Shared Services Management (USSM), which was created by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This body, which is hosted by the General Services Administration (GSA), will help set the strategy and create the road map for shared services for the next several years.
  •  Collaborating with key leaders in the U.S. federal shared service community through quarterly “Executive Roundtable” meetings to promote shared services to the rest of the U.S. federal government.

There is a need for us to collaborate beyond our federal community. The shared services model was first used in the private sector. We collaborated with them, learned from their processes, and adapted our own version of the model.

If PSC is to continue being a leader in shared services, we need to collaborate, build connections, and learn from local, state and international governments like we did with our first collaborators. 

 Please describe the range of shared services that your department provides

PSC’s business approach centers on listening to our customers and utilizing our expertise in responding to their needs with high-quality solutions at the lowest possible cost. We have experienced significant growth over the course of our 20 year history.

Today, we are a $720M operation and we offer over 40 products and services in five key markets:

·         Real Estate and Logistics

·         Financial Management

·         Occupational Health

·         Procurement Management

·         Administrative Operations

Our depth and breadth of services sets us apart from the other U.S. federal shared service providers, who mainly focus on finance, IT, and HR service offerings.

We do everything from managing 300 health clinics to delivering mail; from sustainability programs to negotiated contracts; and from financial reporting to a pharmacy repackaging line.

It is that diversity of services and the expertise behind those services that enable PSC to distribute operating costs over a large customer base, and to deliver a level of performance and cost effectiveness that most organizations cannot attain independently.

 Please describe a recent offering that PSC provides

Many of our customer agencies are seeking to reduce their real estate footprint and costs. The federal government is transforming paper-based processes into more automated systems because it saves storage space, conserves natural resources and saves money.

Going paperless transforms a company’s processes. This is where PSC is stepping in. PSC’s Mail and Publishing Services team takes stacks and stacks of documents and overflowing filing cabinets and puts them in a digital form that can be searched and shared throughout the office.

We offer digital conversion and archiving of large- and small-format documents, forms and images to a digital format. We provide paper document scanning, indexing and data entry services.

As an example, a federal agency was faced with moving to another location and had from 50 to 60 file cabinets full of paper — much more than the new space could accommodate. We came in and scanned all the files, verified that all the material was archived, destroyed the paper copies, and presented the customer 10 CDs that digitized all of the material that had previously resided in all of those file cabinets. Problem solved.

What advice would you offer your counterparts in Asia as they embark on their own shared services journey?

Implementation of shared services in the U.S. federal government has been a slow process. The best example of success to date has been payroll processing, yet that took over 25 years to consolidate from hundreds of agency-specific platforms to the four government-wide platforms we see today (which has delivered over $1 billion in savings so far).

But with this success and others, I’m happy to see that shared services as a concept is gaining momentum. The fact that it is now on the forefront of people’s minds in the U.S. federal government is very telling of how far we have come. So it is an exciting time to be in the shared services space. 

The process of transitioning to a SSP is challenging and it’s our responsibility to ease the customer’s concerns and show them that we are here to help them and to serve as a partner. I have found that customers do not want to give up control and are sometimes willing to pay more for their own inefficient, customized solutions.

SSPs have to show potential customers the benefits that shared services can provide, including doing things better, cheaper and faster. My advice is to showcase those benefits in building the case for customers, including:

  • Workforce Can Focus on Core Mission– SSPs are able to manage administrative and operational tasks eliminating redundancies. Moreover, they have subject matter experts to eliminate time wasted on training or hiring employees. This allows organizations to relieve staff of these types of responsibilities and reallocate them to other roles that focus on core missions.
  • Economies of Scale– Customer agencies utilizing a SSP are able to pool purchasing power with all other provider customers to fund expensive but necessary enterprise systems. This allows smaller customers to enjoy the higher levels of service and capability that only large agencies could enjoy on their own.
  • Reduction in Costs– The ability to centralize and streamline procurement empowers providers to delivery of services at the best value.
  • Eliminate Redundant Technology Tools/Systems– The pressure to keep rates low motivates SSPs to utilize as few tools and systems as possible. Fewer systems mean less duplication and lower security and other maintenance costs. 
  • Force Multiplier– Most customers can typically only hire a few on-staff experts. By taking advantage of a SSP, agencies can gain access to the expertise of a much broader group of resources with a deeper bench of skills, particularly in specialty areas such as acquisitions or real estate.

In addition to showing the benefits of shared services, ask your potential customers, “How might we … help you with …?” By asking “how might we?” — you are answering the customer’s question of “how do shared services help me achieve my mission?” and that is crucial to gaining their support. 

What should we expect from you and your department in 2016?

2016 is going to be a big year for PSC. It’s an election year with a new Administration starting just after the end of 2016, so there will be new opportunities and priorities, and we have to ensure continuity between administrations.

As I mentioned earlier, PSC’s going forward approach centers on listening to our customers and utilizing our expertise in responding to customer needs with high-quality solutions at the lowest possible cost. In 2016, we are going to continue the growth of PSC through an intense focus on meeting or exceeding customer expectations. 

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