The digital transformation at the Social Security Administration (SSA) is remarkable for its approach to ensure a successful outcome. Shifting the process of retiring into a digital world required overcoming a resistant culture, managing multiple stakeholder groups’ needs, surmounting organizational structures and ensuring leaders didn’t lose sight of the end outcome and focus too much on process. The SSA transformation initiative faced the same challenges that commercial businesses face.
Frank Baitman, SSA CIO at the time, recalls the agency experienced management challenges due to its structure using 1,300 field offices across the US. Its 40,000 field workers spent most of their time assisting people going through the retirement process, which didn’t give them enough time to effectively handle disability determinations and claims, and address a backlog in disability case processing. Disability, a more complex process, required far more human attention and support than the relatively simply retirement process.
Design thinking approach
This was a key consideration in the transition plan. The agency involved employees in the design thinking process so that the new business model would satisfy their concerns. As a result, the website includes a validation process so SSA employees can check in with individual retirees, and make sure they made well-informed decisions when using the online system.