Census Bureau Takes to the Cloud

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The U.S. government was dealing with a lot of data during the 2010 Census—and that’s an understatement. Even before a count of 308,745,538 people was reached, the Census Bureau knew it needed a system to gather and organize an overwhelming mass of information.

After Acumen Solutions had demonstrated its cloud-based solution to the Census Bureau in 2008, Acumen was enlisted to develop a custom Salesforce.com CRM application. With only 12 weeks until the go live date, Acumen was responsible for the largest cloud implementations in the federal government.

“[The Census Bureau] was planning on hiring 2,700 people,” explains Nicki Clayton, director of the public sector for Acumen. “We were able to demonstrate that we already had started that process and understood their business model.”

A spokesman for the Census Bureau comments, “[The goal was] to manage all partner organizations and their respective contacts and 2010 commitment activities [and] to provide extensive reporting capabilities, allowing the Census Bureau to more accurately monitor, improve, and extend its partnership national footprint.”

This was not the first time that Acumen had teamed up with the government. According to Clayton, Acumen “specializes in cloud-computing solutions, and a lot of government solutions have been cloud-computing implementations. We have a proven track record in the government.”

This census, however, was one of the first instances in which the government had employed a cloud-based approach. In 2000, the government had a “homegrown solution” that was in the Oracle database. “While it worked reasonably well, they weren’t benefiting from commercially accepted practices,” Clayton explains. “Anytime they wanted to do something new, they had to reinvent the wheel. With the 2010 Census, Clayton continues, the government wanted “best-of-breed, commercial-grade software” to support changing needs as the project progressed.

“When we first were given the contract, all that we were supposed to do was configure the system to collect partners,” Clayton remembers. “But as time went on, they had a lot of other needs around geospatial data and other parts of the census that they were working on. The software was able to meet those needs because there are a lot of add-on features that couldn’t be programmed that quickly if you tried to do it yourself.”

In addition, Acumen’s status as a pioneer in the cloud made it a front-runner when vying for the government’s attention. According to Clayton, the company has been a premier partner with Salesforce.com since 2000, and it has completed more than 200 implementations. “We obviously have a lot of experience that we can leverage,” she says.

With the popularity of cloud-based solutions rising, critics have raised questions about potential privacy invasions. However, because this was a government project, Acumen cleared some extra hurdles to ensure that the information remained in the cloud. “The government won’t allow you to use software on-premises if it has not gone through their certification and accreditation process, which documents all of the security control,” Clayton says. “Depending on what type of data you are collecting, the standards can be incredibly stringent.”

Although Acumen has worked with government organizations, such as the SEC, in the past, this was one of the first agencies to use the cloud for “such a mission-critical project” and to “get the security aspect of the solution resolved.”

Clayton says, “They were unique and truly pioneers in choosing a cloud computing solution for such a mission-critical operation. They had 2,700 people using this, and there was a little bit of a leap of faith for the government there.” 

Associate/Web Editor Brittany Farb can be reached at bfarb@destinationcrm.com.

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