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The value of smarter social services

Transforming service delivery in challenging times

Social service organizations are on the front line of governments’ efforts to deliver better outcomes with fewer resources. But government budgets are shrinking while demand for services from citizens is on the rise, Demographic factors, such as changing employment patterns, increased migration, and population aging are putting pressure on social protection programs to adapt.

Social services are the largest share of public sector budgets, 19% of overall GDP across OECD economies. More than $100B(US) of improper payments was reported by the US Federal Government in 2009. The ratio of working-age to 65+ in the European Union is projected to decrease from 4:1 to 2:1 by 2060.

Social services are the largest share of public sector budgets, 19% of overall GDP across OECD economies.1
More than $100B(US) of improper payments was reported by the US Federal Government in 2009.2
The ratio of working-age to 65+ in the European Union is projected to decrease from 4:1 to 2:1 by 2060.3

At the same time, citizens are expecting easy to use and tailored service delivery similar to their other consumer experiences. How do social service organizations deliver improved experiences and outcomes, rather than just process more cases – and demonstrate success in doing so?

Most social organizations know they must change how they are delivering services, and some have already started. The way forward is not just to cut costs and become leaner, but to build new competencies in order to become smarter. By doing so, services can be delivered more efficiently, effectively, and responsively.

A executive brief from the IBM Center for Applied Insights, The value of smarter social services, shows that investments in data integration and analytics can help social service agencies to optimize service delivery and achieve greater operational efficiencies. By using more efficient service delivery channels, becoming more client centric, tackling improper payments and using their vast resources of information to focus on improving outcomes – they can meet today’s economic challenges and citizen’s expectations.

Smarter Social Services: A competency outcome map
The journey to smarter social services, depicted below, is a set of building blocks that can be applied depending on the organization and environment. As a social organization deploys increasingly sophisticated capabilities, it can become more flexible, as well as more efficient and effective in its mission.

Chart: Client outcome improvement vs Maturity over time

Using an illustrative organization, we demonstrate a model that quantifies the economic impact of smarter social services. For example, by developing the recommended capabilities to fight fraud, abuse and error, a social services agency can identify, investigate and prevent improper payments, achieving millions of dollars in net savings while improving operational efficiency. Using our model, we can demonstrate the benefit to your agency based on your own data.



1. OECD Social Expenditure Database 2010
2. US Office of Management and Budget (OMG), The Accountable Government Initiative – an Update On our Performance Management Agenda, September 14, 2010
3. Eurostat