SSA to test XML-driven knowledge net

SSA to test XML-driven knowledge net

To handle looming baby-boomer retirements without a staff increase, the Social Security Administration began planning several years ago how better to share institutional knowledge.

PolicyNet, a content management and delivery system designed for the agency's 70,000 front-line employees, is now about to move to pilot status for online disability cases, project manager Terry M. Hynes said.

Running on the agency's intranet, the pilot beginning in January will use an ontology, or structured model, of SSA knowledge along with a metadata engine that searches an Extensible Markup Language database.

'We wanted to break down the information stored in about 250,000 pages of manuals and documents into more granular form," Hynes said. 'We wanted to tag it [in XML] in background and then present it in a task-based format.'

Working with a half-dozen subject-matter experts and field employees familiar with disability filing, Hynes chose which bits of information to break out under common scenarios that workers encounter.

For example, a case worker who needs to transfer a disabled client's records to an office in another state could search for that scenario and find concise, XML-tagged rules pulled together from multiple sources.

'We plan a six-month trial at field offices, payment centers and state offices,' Hynes said.

After June, the agency will evaluate the cost and timeframe for a more extensive trial of PolicyNet. Hynes said success will be measured by user feedback, focus groups and usability testing.

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