Don’t Be Senseless: Automate Your Census

by Taylor Leighton on Wed, Dec 08, 2010 @ 05:15 PM

A few months ago, I would come home from work for nearly two weeks straight to a little piece of paper on my door.  The paper always contained a feverishly written note pleading for the whereabouts of a neighbor two doors down.  Not knowing the neighbor, I ignored the note.  Many Americans had similar experiences with the 2010 United States Census.  Although 74% of American households filled out and mailed in their questionnaire, it would appear that my neighbor was not one of them.

What does this have to do with business process management?  A whole lot, which Brazil illustrated by taking a new approach for their decennial census.  This new approach implements Ultimus BPM to expand the infrastructure for census researchers.  Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, or IBGE, is taking a technological leap in this year’s census, which it is in charge of, by automating census processes for the first time. In the December 6th article in Brasil Economico (or Financial Times in Brazil) detailed the method in which IBGE expanded their operational basis from 530 to 7,000 offices in an effort to collect information from over 5,000 municipalities as well as rural areas.  In order to augment the structure quickly, IBGE decided to use software for process automation, analysis and optimization.  New to the concept of BPM, IBGE chose Ultimus as their first-time process automation platform.

process automation for census

IBGE’s Executive Director, Sergio Cortes, spoke about the changes and explained how BPM allowed for resource gains (specifically, time and money) in the processes automated: “Before Ultimus, to be able to lease an office, it would take forty days.  This time was necessary for checking to see if the property owners were in good legal and social security standing so that we could begin contract negotiations.”  Streamlining the property leasing process has shortened this period of time, as they now make use of the internet and it only takes between two to five days.  Cortes explained that over and above the gains and time, they also experienced savings in physical mail, postage and printing costs.

According to Cortes, the investment in BPM software has already paid for itself. Of course, he says, “There are also intangible benefits such as the ability to provide better services and customer satisfaction.”  IBGE has automated and implemented ten processes thus far in the areas of human resources, purchasing, property leasing and contract reviews.  Cortes has plans to automate an additional 70 processes in the next year. 

Furthermore, the researchers in Brazil have been carrying out the polls using electronic devices.  As many may recall, the U.S. had planned to use wireless handheld computers for the 2010 Census but nixed the idea due to mounting costs and reverted to the traditional pen-and-paper method. As cited by USA Today, reverting to a pen-and-paper census is one of the reasons the cost was expected to reach over $3 billion.   Hopefully, the United States Census will jump on the BPM wagon come 2020.

To view the original article in Portuguese, click here.

[Valim, C.E. (6 Dec 10).IBGE de Salto Technologico com novo sistema usado para o censo. Brasil Economico]

Translation provided by David Almeida.


Relevant Links:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Expanding on Process Improvement

Process Optimization in Government and Healthcare


Taylor Leighton

Marketing Specialist


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This post was written by Taylor Leighton