Census tries new Web tool to prepare for 2000 count

Census tries new Web tool to prepare for 2000 count

By Patricia Daukantas
GCN Staff

The Census Bureau is using Web workflow analysis software to streamline setup of the Census 2000 data capture centers.

The year-old start-up Metier LLC of Washington worked with Census prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. on a pilot to outfit the bureau's data capture center in Baltimore. Metier undertook the collaboration before releasing its ePM workflow analyzer package commercially.

Lockheed Martin is building the Data Capture System 2000 to process 130 million census forms using optical character recognition.

The company handles all hardware, software and systems integration in Baltimore and at three other regional sites, said Julie Dunlap, census business area manager for Lockheed Martin.

Metier's ePM helped deploy all that technology, Dunlap said.

The ePM application is Web-accessible by browser or palmtop computer, said Metier chief executive officer Douglas D. Clark. It uses the Microsoft SQL Server 7 relational database manager and authenticates users via digital certificates from VeriSign Inc. of Mountain View, Calif.

After log-in, ePM users view a summary of customized information about their project tasks and budgets. Users can assign numerical risk factors to each project task.

Unique to ePM analysis is the concept of churn. According to Metier project manager Danielle M. Lynch, negative churn means responsibilities that crop up unexpectedly. Positive churn means tasks that slip behind schedule.

Metier's use of positive and negative do not carry the usual connotations, however. 'It's just the reality of what's going on in the organization,' Lynch said.

Churning on

EPM summarizes the top reasons for churn and lists the teams and individuals experiencing the most and least churn, Lynch said.

Churn rates higher than, say, 50 percent indicate that the overall workflow needs scrutiny because of excessive delays or unanticipated new tasks.

Lynch said Lockheed Martin used data gathered from the Baltimore installation to build the second data capture site at the Census Bureau's National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Ind.

Two other temporary centers for Census 2000 will be assembled in leased buildings in Phoenix and Pomona, Calif.

Using ePM, Lockheed Martin tracked how long each part of the installation took to complete. Cutting the network cables for the Baltimore center turned out to be one of the most time-consuming tasks, so installers will use precut cables elsewhere, Dunlap said.

The ePM statistics also will be useful in tearing down the three temporary centers after Census 2000, Dunlap said.

'Speed and accuracy are paramount in this operation,' Census director Kenneth Prewitt said in a statement about the Baltimore center.

'We worked with TRW Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin and others to develop a state-of-the-art facility that could process millions of questionnaires faster and more accurately than ever befor,.' he said.

Ann Gwynn of the bureau's Decennial Systems Contracts Management Office said the contractors are making their own decisions about what products to use.

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