Too many hats, not enough rabbits: Why healthcare.gov failed
It’s old news now, but this interesting chart from the Oct. 24 Washington Post details in simple, non-technical terms why the Heathcare.gov website failed.
The text, a sidebar to the main story, Full testing of HealthCare.gov began too late, contractors say, clearly explains why the website failed and how complicated its repair is likely to be.
Most interesting and revealing, however, are the accompanying comments from IT professionals about basic protocols and accepted practices that were violated. (Unfortunately, one person notes that many comments seem to have been deleted; perhaps WaPo wanted to keep the focus on the main story, which accrued more than 5,000 comments versus just 68 on this item.) In any case, one needn’t be a tech expert to understand:
>Who was the idiot that decided that shopping without sign in shouldn’t be allowed and why can’t it be turned on now?
The Administration wanted the policy price to include the verified Federal subsidy. They only way to do that is to obtain an applicant’s data up front. From a systems point of view, having developed IT systems for 30 years, this was a last minute requirement that threw a monkey wrench in the works, just weeks before it went live. Perhaps they system managers lacked the guts to tell the politicians “if we have to do that, the system will need 3 or 4 more months of development & testing”. What is likely, they were told to make that change and do it by October 1. You see, people that have ZERO experience developing systems can’t comprehend why on Earth such a tiny change would muck up the works.
It’s both fascinating and sad to see how, again and again, not only in IT but across many types of businesses, managers with no hands-on experience and no time in the trenches demand the absurd from their employees, refusing to hear or accept that their goals are ridiculous. And it’s amazing to see how often those employees, knowing full well how impossible those goals and timelines are, manage to work some magic and meet them anyway. That it didn’t happen in the case of healthcare.gov was probably not for a lack of trying. Sometimes there are just too many hats, and not enough rabbits to pull from them.