This post will sound a partisan, but that’s not my intent. I’m sure you, my fellow Information Technology friends would agree, that if you listened to any of the testimony this morning by Sec. Kathleen Sebelius you were truly frustrated. Why? Because you are in I.T. and you know better. You know that at minimum, the honorable Sec. Sebelius was subverting the truth. How unfortunate, frustrating and demoralizing to a country starving for honesty.
Representative Doris Matsui of California stated during the hearing: “The fact that the hired private contractors could not build the ready web site in three years is inexcusable and after it’s fixed I hope the Administration will hold those at fault accountable.” I agree, who is the CEO in this case?
How long have the contractors been involved? When were the user stories completed? When was the architecture available? It’s going to be far, far less than three years. Maybe I’m a typical geek type who is bothered with a Washington bureaucrat blaming a technical team for their own failure. My guess is that the CEO (President Obama) instructed the COO (Sec. Sebelius) to get the project moving three years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if the General Contractor wasn’t hired for a year – and I wouldn’t be surprised if diligent user-story creation began as little as 18 months ago. Then, when did the coding start? 12 months ago? Based on the timeline, would any of us be surprised if there was no end to end QA? To all of you in application development and QA – did you know that the teams are still getting user story updates because not all of the Market Plans were introduced as late as September. You know that means by default there could not have been extensive QA testing prior to launch. This, for a system that is to serve millions of citizens? Scary concept! Unfortunately the general public will not know enough about application development to realize that they are not getting all the facts. The HHS secretary either doesn’t know the facts or she is leading us astray. It would not be likely she doesn’t know the facts about QA, security and basic load testing the application prior to launch.
They asked about a performance bond. I doubt any contractor would have signed a performance bond that wasn’t loaded with caveats, such as “user stories must be completed within…” etc. No, something tells me that the CEO and COO are most culpable. Most of us running our own business are very passionate about the idea of a free market. No private company would spend over $150 million dollars and not end up bankrupt after a failure like that. But, if you are in an organization that actually can print your money and have no real financial risk in failure then you get failure. And, this latest anecdotal evidence is exactly and precisely why Government should NOT run ANYTHING that can be run in the private sector. If we MUST have socialized health insurance then we should have at LEAST made the management and assets of the program competitive and in the private sector, with the contract terms renewable based on performance. Either this is so incredibly obvious or maybe there’s my naivety again. Help me understand how this happens!
Hot patches are the name of the game right now in the frantic effort to get the “web site” stabilized. Yours truly is not in a big group plan, and since my private Blue Cross plan is younger than 2010 I’ll likely get shoved out. With this in mind I went ahead and tried to get pricing. While there was plenty of latency issues, it is clear to me there are FAR more problems with the code than infrastructure, based on the errors I witnessed. Unfortunately Sec. Sebilius mostly blamed Verizon. I realize she used a lot of weasel words to imply there were other problems, but no mention of inappropriate time to prepare and execute. Remember this comment recently: “we didn’t know there would be so many users..”? Well, to you and me that means: No end to end QA, no load testing and most importantly, probably no written goal for load testing! Is that the contractor’s fault? Nope! You know it and I know it. In other words, for any project to be a success it has to set the team up FOR success. Who is responsible for that? It’s not the technical team, its management. As an I.T. professional do not be afraid to set the record straight. I would be disingenuous if I tried to imply I’m not upset about having another Government mandated program, but BOTH sides of the aisle need to start being truthful to us, on every issue. It’s up to the people who have insider knowledge to keep them honest. In this case, that’s you and me.