NASA’s Success with Shared Services Determinedly Led and Clearly Explained by Richard Arbuthnot

Posted on May 3, 2010


What was most interesting about the presentation given by Richard Arbuthnot at last week’s 2010 Business of Government Summit in Washington, D.C. is the fact that he accomplished what so few have been able to do relative to implementing a shared services strategy . . . clearly explain why it worked at NASA and, identify the pitfalls associated with implementation that need to be overcome (or avoided) to succeed.

Richard Arbuthnot, NASA

While Arbuthnot, who is the Executive Director for the NASA Shared Services Center, was humble in his recounting of the first time he attended a meeting as part of an executive group in which shared services veterans from corporations like McDonald’s were in attendance, it is clear that even in that circle he had and has much to add.

From a personal perspective, I have never fully bought into the shared services concept. In fact for many years I was skeptical about its effectiveness in the public sector, which was largely based on the unfavorable experiences of many governments.

This of course gradually began to change when I had the opportunity to interview Colin Cram on the PI Window on Business Show to discuss his seminal paper “Towards Tesco – improving public sector procurement. Like Arbuthnot, Cram precisely and articulately provided an outline as to why a shared services strategy could save the UK Government £25 billion per annum.

Colin Cram – Towards Tesco

Like the proverbial batter in baseball, Cram’s insights represented the slow, outside curve ball a pitcher throws before coming in with the heat to strike out a surprised batter. Yes, Arbuthnot’s reported savings of $8 to $10 million in one year, which grew to $12 to $16 million in subsequent years was that high, inside fastball that convinced me that “there is gold in them thar (shared services) hills.”

I will of course leave it to you to listen to the on-demand version of our coverage of Arbuthnot’s Washington presentation which originally aired live across the Blog Talk Radio Network on Wednesday, April 28th. However, I do want to share with you his four “shared services pitfalls” that can be addressed through a clearly defined due diligence process.

  1. Vague or ill-defined scope of work
  2. Under or, overestimating the volume of work
  3. Unrealistic expectations (re trying to please everyone)
  4. Underestimating the amount of re-work that will be required (which he estimated to be 30%)

The above points are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the tremendous insights Arbuthnot provided during his 45 minute session. Once again, use the following link “LIVE EVENT FEED: 3rd Annual Business of Government Summit (Day 2, Morning Session),” to access the on-demand broadcast or, click on the Blog Talk Radio icon below.

Click on this icon for Richard Arbuthnot’s Presentation on Blog Talk Radio

In the meantime, look for our second Washington Dispatch tomorrow on the Roundtable discussion on Transparency in Government.

About the Summit:

The PI Window on Business took its show on the road this past Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to sponsor Elcom and the tremendous work of the 2010 Business of Government Summit’s organizer, Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON).

“Building Bridges”

It was a first rate venue that saw us broadcast “live” 5 incredibly informative sessions centered on “Building a Transparent, Collaborative and High-Performance Government Capable of Addressing the Challenges of the 21st Century.”

Uniting Practioners, Providers & Advisors

The attendees of mostly senior officials and executives from the public sector world were exposed to an incredible array of thought leaders, whose shared insights and experiences provided much needed (and welcomed) perspectives on both the challenges and potential strategies for effective government practices in the 21st century.