County Guide to Shared Services in Local Government Report

A County Manager’s Guide to Shared Services in Local Government, a report published for IBM Center for The Business of Government, presents findings—based on both research and experience—on how local governments, specifically county governments, are today implementing a variety of shared services.

In the report, Eric Zeemering, a professor from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Daryl Delabbio, a practitioner from Kent County, Michigan,

present a discussion of the three preconditions for successful shared service implementations. These include leadership; trust, reciprocity, and transparency; and clear goals and measurable results. After describing how county governments now use shared services, including three short case studies, the authors set forth five recommendations on planning and implementing a shared service. For example, regarding the need for flexibility, Zeemering and Delabbio write, “When working with other governments, counties must be prepared to revisit the design of existing cooperative relationships to meet changing needs and budgetary constraints.”

Howard County’s government was spotlighted in one of the report’s case studies helping identify efficiencies in Howard County itself and in Maryland Public Schools.  Howard County Executive Ken Ulman assembled a high-level task force focused to rethink service overlaps and efficiency.

Deputy Chief of Staff Ian Kennedy explains that there were previously few direct lines of communication between county staff and their counterparts in similar departments within the public schools. “By starting with this [task force] of high-level personnel, as they drill down within their respective agencies … just having that conversation and keeping the lines of communication open has helped them … brainstorm ideas.”

In some areas, cooperation has resulted in budget savings. The organizations began to jointly bid health, dental, and other employee benefit plans, which resulted in an estimated $4.3 million in yearly savings. The county added the school to its bulk contract for the purchase of gas and diesel, yielding $30,000 in annual savings, and joined the county’s trash and recycling contract for another $50,000 in savings.

For more information on the report, click here.