Digital benefits: Here’s why—and how—to rethink social security
Social security agencies around the world were born in the analogue world: processing large numbers of paper-based claims from clients while meeting the transactional service demands of a relatively stable legislative framework. These agencies now find themselves out of kilter in a digital world, where they face much more fluid demands and opportunities.
Among the pressing challenges: Macroeconomic and demographic shifts. Growing demand for digital services. Rising citizen expectations. And increasing efficiency pressures in the face of fiscal consolidation. As just one example, consider that the UK Treasury announced in 2015 that the Department for Work & Pensions’ administration budget would be cut by 22 percent over the next five years—despite plans for higher benefits spending.
To survive and thrive, social security agencies cannot simply do the same things more quickly or with fewer resources. Instead, they must fundamentally change. The traditional model—focused on transactions and based on reactive claims processing—needs to give way to a new, more proactive approach. With the right technologies, social security agencies can automate many of the "basics" of their operations. And by becoming more data driven and employing analytics, they can generate insights that enable personalised and timely responses to customers’ evolving needs.
Start with people and culture—then deploy the right technology
To shift from a transactional to a proactive operating model, social security agencies need to rethink the way they use two core resources: people and technology. Creating a culture of innovation—and empowering human resources with the right tools and technologies—will be critical to the success of a social security agency in the future.
With citizens ready to engage digitally, the challenge for social security agencies is to enable citizens to take the control they seek. That means a shift from the traditional face-to-face contact model towards more automation (for example, in payments processing) and greater self-service (for example, in applying for a new claim). Doing so will require more sophisticated infrastructure and the ability to build an integrated view of social security customers. For example, digitisation must go beyond the first point of contact and into digitally enabled workflows and case management. Users will also expect joined-up services integrated seamlessly across all of the departments and functions they’re interacting with.
As technology needs change, so will requirements for skills and talent. With self-service and automation taking over transactional work, agency staff will spend more of their time on the most complex and demanding cases. Such cases will require strong entrepreneurial and interpersonal skills to manage a web of policies and a diverse set of stakeholders in the service ecosystem. At the same time, the move to a self-service model will require design experts who can deliver simple, convenient user experiences; expertise in business intelligence and analytics tools will be essential to generating actionable insight for policymakers as well as case managers.
While similar challenges and opportunities confront the entire public sector, social security agencies are at the sharp end of change. Those that respond positively will set a new standard with personalised, digital and insight-driven services that proactively identify and meet citizens’ needs—powered by highly skilled human capital and agile new technologies.
Accenture explores people and technology considerations in depth in reshaping the social security agency around improved human capital and technology—a new paper published in conjunction with the International Social Security Association (ISSA).