Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Business Intelligence at SSA

By Mark Brousseau

Business intelligence has transformed the way the Social Security Administration (SSA) does business, John Simermeyer, associate commissioner, Office of Earnings, Enumeration and Administrative Services, for the SSA said yesterday during a presentation at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit 2009 in Washington, D.C.

“Our business intelligence efforts are an integral component of the agency’s planning process,” Simermeyer told attendees. “Business intelligence empowers SSA to accomplish our mission.”

Each year, SSA issues more than 18 million Social Security cards, posts $4 trillion in earnings to worker records, processes over 23 million status-changes, pays out more than $650 billion, and fulfills more than 1 billion requests for Social Security Number verification from other agencies and organizations).

The challenge for SSA is that its workload is increasing as its staff is decreasing. “The retirement rate has hit SSA very hard,” Simermeyer explained. “Retiring baby boomers are driving up the workload at SSA. At the same time, we are losing many of our knowledge workers to the same phenomenon.”

SSA also was challenged by information silos across the organization. “We have many legacy systems dispersed throughout the agency,” Simermeyer said. “This creates problems in terms of cost and data reconciliation. We spent a lot of unnecessary effort trying to find out why numbers don’t match.”

To help with its mission, SSA deployed its SSA Unified Measurement System (SUMS) to provide critical information across its workflows and systems. “It’s all about the data, and that was perhaps our greatest challenge,” Simermeyer said, recalling SSA’s inflexible reports and lack of infrastructure across the organization. “So, we created a business intelligence repository and focused on data integration.”

Business intelligence helps “inform SSA’s strategic decisions affecting American taxpayers,” he said.

“We are using business intelligence to transform data to information to knowledge to action, and it’s having a positive impact on our business outcomes,” he said. “We’ve improved decision-making and transparency, and drastically reduced the amount of data reconciliation efforts we go through.” He noted that with business intelligence, SSA has gone from multiple sources of data to a single source.

Simermeyer said that business intelligence also, “improved the timeliness, accuracy and measurement of work. Prior to business intelligence adoption, we were reactive by nature. Now we are proactive.”

So what’s next for SSA’s business intelligence initiatives? Simermeyer said the agency plans to integrate its remaining work into the system to retire legacy systems and enhance its information infrastructure.

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