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Project Rescue Expert Todd Williams Talks About Healthcare.gov (Video) 276

Posted by Roblimo
from the health-website-that-isn't-healthy dept.
By now, most Americans have either heard or learned firsthand that the Healthcare.gov website doesn't work right. Slings, arrows, and brickbats are being slung all over Washington, and Congressional representatives are busily thundering imprecations at all and sundry who were involved in putting Healthcare.gov together. If there have been any Congressional hearing focusing on how to fix the problems, though, we have not seen them. You'd think that our representatives would bring in people like today's interviewee, Todd Williams, who has written a book titled Rescue the Problem Project and runs a company that specializes in rescuing failed projects. What's more, Todd is just one of many Americans who have helped rescue projects that have gone awry. Hopefully our government has at least one of them working on Healthcare.gov by now, although we haven't heard that they've selected a strong turnaround manager and set him or her to work on the project -- and you'd think they would have told us if they had.

Robin Miller: Folks, this is Todd Williams and he’s kind of an expert on processes on how to fix messed up projects. And I was looking just the other day at a website called healthcare.gov and it didn’t work. Todd, what’s up with that, you heard about this?

Todd Williams: Well, I think there’s been a couple of minutes on the air about this, a couple of people talking about it. But I think they can take it in stride and not a lot of hyperbole on the whole thing. So yes, I have heard about it and sorry if my facetious sarcasm sounds a bit yes.

Robin Miller: Everybody is.

Todd Williams: It’s a big issue, yes.

Robin Miller: Okay. Could this set of problems, I’m saying set of problems not one. Obviously, multiple problems, could they have been detected before October 1st?

Todd Williams: I think, I detected it about five years ago; near to six years ago.

Robin Miller: Really?

Todd Williams: Well, part of the problem is, in my view our projects start to go wrong at that people culture level. You have to look at first people and people really at the top level, if you don’t have the right people you’re going to have problems. If you get the right people, then you can put process around whatever those people are doing. And once you get the process around what they’re doing, then you can put technology on top of it.

And so we seemed to have started with maybe a few cultural problems in how we do things, you got people not telling other people what’s going on. So the culture is not right, that means the people is not right and we kind of jump down and say, well let us put some technology on top of that to make it better.

So far I have not seen where you can apply technology to something that’s broken and make it actually work better. Generally, technology gets you into something much more efficiently and so if it’s a bad process, you have bad people, then it just leads you into trouble just a lot faster, little more efficiently.

Robin Miller: Okay. So, with healthcare.gov, what went wrong before the technology started up?

Todd Williams: Can I draw an analogy back into a business because when we look at a public project, a public project runs inside of a democracy, right? And that’s a very, very different world than what goes on inside of a business. Business is autocratic. Business, you put together, you make a set of decisions of which can go strategically for the company, you put that together, a lot of people have a voice in that and then you make a decision and you go forward, right?

And the government project and these sorts of public project, you don’t necessarily have that autocratic, okay, we’ve made a decision let’s move forward. When I’m on a project privately, I have to toe the line, I’m going to get behind the leader, okay that’s the way we are going to go, whether I agree with it or not. In a public project, you don’t have that. You have a whole bunch of people and we can continue to debate and debate and debate the direction of the project.

So the very first problem is, there was a lot of discourse on what that project was really supposed to do. And will we even have a website? Will we even have Obamacare? When we go through an election, what’s going to happen? What happens if the other side wins? So when we are looking at any public sector project, the biggest challenge it has is election cycles, because election cycles bring in new administration. And I don’t care whether you’re talking about some local project that you’re working on to put in a dog park in your community or whether you’re looking to put in Obamacare. That’s the big difference there. So you can predict that there is going to be problems well in advance.

In addition, this is a technology project and when we’re talking a little bit earlier, you made the comment that these are IT projects. So, I’m going to drop the ‘I’ because I think we see that any technology project, when we’re doing something new and exciting, it is going to be challenging, right? And there’s going to be problems with that. That’s part of what technology is all about. If we have to implement something, it’s going to be new and different. Obviously, this is a huge website with a lot of things that have to go on. There is going to be some challenges there, regardless of how you look at it.

Robin Miller: The one thing that I wonder, you’re talking about how government elections can change it. Well, not all governments have elections, number one. And number two, let’s say it was Yahoo and Marissa Meyer came in and said, oh all you people got to move back inside, you can’t work from home anymore. Businesses too have changes in management and sudden, let’s not go this way, let’s go that way, they do it as well. But either way, government or business, so we have the Obamacare thing, in theory the government at some point decided what needed to be done. It needed to be this website where you could see what your options from private companies were, health insurance companies. Now, maybe, I’m just an idiot, well I’ve been involved in a fair number of software and website development projects, I don’t think it was that hard, am I wrong?

Todd Williams: Technically, the technology in trying to get people to pull all that together, I don’t think it’s technically that hard. But that said, it’s the bottom of the triangle, that’s not the top because at the top of the triangle, you’re really trying to get the people to work together and that’s where I think the problems are, okay, where people are challenged with how they’re going to work together and continue to work.

Yes, in a company you have administration changes that are not nearly as frequent and sometimes not nearly as drastic as they are in a government situation. In a public situation, you can go from republican to democrat overnight and that makes a huge change. In a corporation, you generally have a board that’s helping make that change. Yes, it can make things to be fairly drastic, such as in Yahoo’s case, but the goal of the company was still basically the same.

Yes, they changed the culture and that’s what _____6:56. Yahoo changed the culture and so that example you gave actually kind of grows back into what I was saying. When you look at the culture that you’re talking about, the big cultural differences in public sector projects, public sector projects are just that, they are public. There’s a lot of private sector projects which are kept private and they are able to hold that back and maybe some stockholders find out about it, maybe there is some issues that will get out.

But you don’t hear however an insurance company implements _____7:33 hundred or few hundred thousand, excuse me, policy wise as it goes from one provider to another provider. That doesn’t make headlines on the news, it’s kind of boring and people don’t hear about it. In the public sector, because it’s out there, people use it, people see it, they can’t hide it. So there’s a special attribute there that makes things a little bit challenging. People don’t want to get up in the morning and see CNN on their front door step. It’s not a good way to start a Monday.

Robin Miller: So wait a minute, so you are saying, there may have been private industry screw ups just as bad but they’re not public, so we don’t hear about them?

Todd Williams: We will hear about some of them, and let’s take a look at – let’s get out of the software world. Well, it’s not completely out of the software world. Let’s look at the Dreamliner, the Boeing 787, okay, look at the challenges they had with that. They had huge delays. They had manufacturing issues. This is a huge program to bring in all new concepts of how a company is going to work together, internationalizing the assembly of an airplane, building airplanes with the whole parts around. But when you look at the [dream holler] that was out there and bringing in new technology. Not only was it late, but then they ended up with battery failures, right?

So what’s the cost of that? The last number I saw was about an $18 billion loss. Is the Dreamliner a failure? I wouldn’t say it’s a failure, the financial guys inside Boeing might disagree with me on that one at this point. But all new technologies, all these big things are something that I think does cause a shift in what we’re doing. Was that a component in Obamacare and how did the Obamacare website fail? Is that all new technology? I don’t believe so. I believe that it was just the size of it and then the culture, back to that culture.

We heard very, very early on people saying, well, you know, I didn’t know anything about that and nobody ever told me what went on and it just [ironed] people. In my company if I hear that once a week, I’ll be surprised, it’s got to be hearing that dozens of times a week. Hey, this project was running just great for the entire two months and now all of a sudden I come to work and I find out this thing is in severe trouble and we call those watermelon projects and it’s a term we’ve kind of coined because that’s what they are. I mean, if you take a look at a watermelon, vertically green and so it’s a green project, it’s running just well. And so from management standpoint when they look at this thing, it looks just fine, but when you open it up, what color is it on the inside? It’s flaming red.

And so people don’t investigate what’s going on, the organization isn’t transparent, doesn’t allow people to go say, what’s right and what’s wrong, it’s that cultural. So we spend a lot of time actually changing the cultures of how people inside a company work. If you don’t have that infrastructure, they can’t make things happen.

Here we’ve heard about people with different companies that were communicating with one another, another form of that is without that good communication and transparency, it’s not going to work and I think that’s really the core. We’re on Slashdot here and so we’re kind of down at that programmer level, and so the follow on question to that is, well, what can a programmer have done to make this different. And it comes all the way down to the organization to that level because I do think that programmers could have made a difference, could one programmer make a difference? No. Could a whole team added to that team made a difference? Yes, very much so.

Robin Miller: Okay. At what point because obviously this was a mix of government people and a whole lot of different contractors, including god help us, Canadians?

Todd Williams: Now, let’s not bash our folks to the north there. I have done a lot of work with some friends in Toronto and I

Robin Miller: I know. In Toronto, my friend David Graham up there, he’s a great guy, he is not the mayor. So just, I know, I know and

Todd Williams: I would askthe mayor

Robin Miller: We have enough mayors. It’s true. They want to laugh, they can laugh at us, they can laugh at healthcare.gov because let’s face it, even the Canadian company, most of the people they had working on it were working in a building outside of Washington DC. They weren’t Canadians. But just one note, I’m going to edit this heavily, so you know, so when it seems like I’m going around and around on things, this is not going to be the way it’s going to be, because I’m going to edit down to the best 10 minutes, and we’re not trying to make you look stupid, I’m trying to get the best stuff out. I have done work. This is a hand sized version of the Panasonic’s big cameras and I have shot stuff for ABC in 2020 in Florida. They don’t send a crew, they just – you know what I’m saying, they just have guys like me who have own cameras and lights and they just send us out. So I know how to bushwhackpeople.

Todd Williams: No problem. So it’s interesting because I have worked in a number of projects with Canadian teams and people don’t even think then about the cultural differences between north of the border and south of the border. How Americans do things, how Canadians do things. There really is a huge cultural gap there.

Robin Miller: Really.

Todd Williams: It’s secretive because people think, oh, we’re all North Americans. We do things the same way, and I was more than once considered to be that arrogant guy from south of the border that would come up and start stirring up the pot. So there was a very big cultural clash there and I had to change a lot of the ways that I worked with teams up in Toronto, and that’s where I have my experiences in Toronto, in trying to get things to work better and smoother, was I a success might be another story of making that better but we do get projects there.

So, yeah, when we look at how people inside those lower level companies that were actually contributors, the subcontractors, I bet that the very first place that people knew something was going wrong was with the developers, because the people at that level who were actually trying to make things work, they are the first ones to smell the problem coming, right? They started to see, hey wait a minute, I don’t know how this looks, I don’t know how that looks, how is this supposed to work, how am I supposed to get data from them, how am I supposed to ship it to them, they just did that quicker than anything.

I’m not sure if you have seen my book, my book is Rescue the Problem Project. I spent a lot of time in there saying, when you’re looking at rescuing a project, the very first thing you do is interview people, and I’m not talking about interviewing just the program managers and the directors and project sponsors and that type of people, you do need to talk to them, but boy walk down to the individual contributor and find out what the individual contributor actually thinks the problems is, because you’re going to find a lot of the social problems right down at that level.

I had a key line that any time I walk into a failed project and my job is to recover it, my key line is, the answers are in the team. Get that team, the key people in that team, get them in a room; in this case it’s multiple rooms at multiple times _____15:43 the whole digital thing. I spend a lot of time with remote teams and well equipped to handle that. But when you’re working at a failed project level, get in front of the people, take him out for coffee, understand what’s going on. This is true person-to-person where you need to get together and not butt heads, but actually pool together and leverage what those people know. At that level of developers, the QA people, the solution architects, the business analysts that were pooling things together, they knew this is off track, long, long ago. There was no surprises there. It went up through the chain, the translation got lost. Was I involved with this thing? No, but I will bet my paycheck that everybody down at the lower levels of this thing knew it was going wrong and didn’t have the ability or the gumption or whatever, to raise the flag and push it really hard.

Robin Miller: What if they were just scared to speak up?

Todd Williams: That happens a lot, and you get right back to that point of, it’s culture. If you don’t want to say that there’s a problem, you don’t want to say here is the issue because you are going to lose your job, then why would you bring it up, that’s one of the joys I say that, quite often I will say that contractors cheat, okay, because contractors come in, they’ll do something, consultants come in and do something and tell you what you don’t want, then they’ll fire us, because actually hired me to tell you what you needed to hear, you don’t like what you heard, then why didn’t you hire me internally and getting that news from people internally was the problem.

Another thing right in that same conversation whenever I tell people the answers are in the team, the other line I say is, I may come out and talk to you guys, pull all that information together, and I’m going to develop a report, submit it and say this is what needs to change, and I’m going to take credit for it, it’s all your ideas, but I have to take credit for that person _____17:50. They have to make sure that they kind of divorce the team from that analysis, even though it’s all their data, and they may have been telling people all along. It’s that outside person who has the objectivity, the neutrality, that can say here are the problems that went on, and here’s how you’re going to now fix it.

Robin Miller: Now, interestingly in all of this and in healthcare.gov, I have not heard that there is an outside fixer or consultant coming in, have you heard of one?

Todd Williams: Well, you said one, and I think there’s been a talk of dozens of them coming in and I’m not sure if that’s the right way to solve it. It’s a big project, you’re going to need a lot of feet on the ground, there’s no question, but you have to have a point person. And if you don’t have a point person you’re going to be in trouble. Again, I think that may have been part of the failure points in whole implementation is if you can tell me who the point person is on healthcare.gov, and that person who we call the project sponsor or program sponsor, whatever, that one single point of contact who is the person who is accountable for everything to get done, I don’t know there was one, I think there were multiple things starting to get diffused and that’s a big challenge whenever it comes to a project.

Robin Miller: And we haven’t heard of anybody, a single point of contact brought in to fix it, have we?

Todd Williams: No, I have not heard of that. We’ve heard that they’re going to bring in the Googles and other companies like that. I’m not sure if Google has done a lot of project recovery work, and there’s a little bit of how do we take care of it. I mean, if something has got to happen, we got to restructure things, find out where the big points are, prioritize them, get those big things done first. But, yeah, I have not seen a one person contact, no.

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Project Rescue Expert Todd Williams Talks About Healthcare.gov (Video)

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  • Me too! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:39PM (#45483367) Journal
    I *also* can turn around failed projects, please sign this contract to let me begin. -Every consultant ever
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by goldaryn (834427)
      A smart comment here beneath a snarky exterior. Profiteering created this this mess and I now can't help see this gentleman as anything but a dollar-bill eyed charlatan.

      I would watch the video but, you know, this is Slashdot.

      * I actually live in the UK but for once I'll refrain from the we have free healthcare, you obligatory insensitive clod joke. This site seems like a step in the right direction, all fingers crossed for my US brethren.
      • Re:Me too! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:59PM (#45483601)
        I can't watch the video. After the ad played for 63 seconds, I am done.
      • Re:Me too! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DaHat (247651) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:09PM (#45483731) Homepage

        Profiteering created this this mess

        No... poor management and a poorly thought out law is what caused this mess.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by liquidpele (663430)
          Except many state exchanges such as the California and Arkansas exchanges are functioning great. The law itself may or may not be shit, but the execution of the federal website is an entirely separate issue. Don't throw your personal politics into it unnecessarily, it's juvenile.
      • Re:Me too! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:38PM (#45484025) Homepage Journal

        A smart comment here beneath a snarky exterior. Profiteering created this this mess and I now can't help see this gentleman as anything but a dollar-bill eyed charlatan.

        I would watch the video but, you know, this is Slashdot.

        * I actually live in the UK but for once I'll refrain from the we have free healthcare, you obligatory insensitive clod joke. This site seems like a step in the right direction, all fingers crossed for my US brethren.

        In the US there's a saying: if you want to make a lot of money, sell bad software to the public sector.

        The primary disease symptom is a complete lack of understanding among the people who select the vendor, hand out specs and often do not know how to communicate technology needs. Also, when a project fails the vendor often can just walk away with their boat-load of cash, without so much as a backwards glance - where a private sector customer may be queuing up their lawyers to punish an incompetent vendor, the public sector often lets them completely off the hook and just looks for the next vendor promising the moon and stars on something else.

        Now enter partisanship - there is a party who would like nothing better than for the healthcare system to fail miserably so they can make hay out of it. It's deplorable, but not nearly so much as a public willing to go along with this, rather than demand accountability upon the vendor(s) and their contacts. We the tax payer have already paid for this thing, love it or hate it, we should demand it work and work well.

        • where a private sector customer may be queuing up their lawyers to punish an incompetent vendor, the public sector often lets them completely off the hook and just looks for the next vendor promising the moon and stars on something else.

          Usually because the vendor has actually delivered everything they were contracted to deliver and it works properly. The problem is the government didn't really know what it wanted when it made the purchase and has something completely unsuitable to it's actual needs. It's

        • Re:Me too! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MugenEJ8 (1788490) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @07:15PM (#45486015)

          Now enter partisanship...

          If you don't want to add additional animosity from your opposing political party, then don't ram legislation through via sneaky legal tactics. Go research HOW President Obama managed to get the ACA legislation passed; it will shock you, and you'll then understand a little better why the republicans fight it tooth and nail.

          Just look at all the political posturing... For example, is it not a little unreasonable that the Healthcare.gov website was a no-bid contract? In a law and service you want represented flawlessly, why wouldn't you RFP multiple, large and competent businesses that have done it before and at ten times the scale? It's because its your signature law, and you bet the farm on it, so you'd like all the people in your own corner to back it, profit from it, and live in its limelight. That's exactly what President Obama did... and because it flopped hard, it will be his and potentially his party's downfall for the next x years.

          Taxpayers have already purchased this system and It's failed. Now we spend more taxpayers money to fix it, and blame the opposing political party in whatever fashion we can.

          The intellectual dishonesty among constituents is baffling, and I can't understand for the life of me why they let their representatives get away with murder just because of the future promise of something they don't currently have and want.

        • Re:Me too! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ttucker (2884057) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @07:37PM (#45486215)

          Now enter partisanship - there is a party who would like nothing better than for the healthcare system to fail miserably so they can make hay out of it.

          The law passed without a single yes vote from the Republican Party, the same party whose primary complaint was that the law would not work, before, during, and after it was passed. This is who your rational mind blames for the failure of the law?

          No, this piece of shit belongs to the legislators who unilaterally formulated and passed the bill, nobody else.

      • by Shakrai (717556) *

        * I actually live in the UK but for once I'll refrain from the we have free healthcare, you obligatory insensitive clod joke.

        I don't think you know what the words "free" or "refrain" mean.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:41PM (#45483387)
    Of course they've told us. They told us they're doing a "tech surge," and bringing in the "best and brightest," and that the web site will be working smoothly for the "vast majority" of users nine days from now. That's all pretty cut and dry, and there's no way that anyone in the administration would be foolish enough to promise something like that if it weren't plainly true. If it weren't true, that would be due to either staggering incompetence, or a willingness to baldly lie about it, and of course neither of those can be the case with this much scrutiny. So, I don't know what the OP is implying.
    • by lgw (121541)

      As much as I enjoy laughing at politicians, there's a less funny side to all of this: there's apparently no security for this website at all. We heard early on that they had skipped the security audit required of all government websites, but I've been on projects that did the security audit a bit after launch to make a date, so I won't throw stones.

      However, we're seeing a wide range of security experts, spanning the credibility spectrum from the sort who give testimony to congress, to MacAfee his own bad s

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Of course they've told us. They told us they're doing a "tech surge," and bringing in the "best and brightest," and that the web site will be working smoothly for the "vast majority" of users nine days from now. That's all pretty cut and dry, and there's no way that anyone in the administration would be foolish enough to promise something like that if it weren't plainly true. If it weren't true, that would be due to either staggering incompetence, or a willingness to baldly lie about it, and of course neither of those can be the case with this much scrutiny. So, I don't know what the OP is implying.

      This is either sarcastic, or just plain stupid. I'm voting for sarcasm.

      "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period." and "The website will be working by... " are both whoppers being told for political purposes.

      If you are not sure I'm right you need to read what Fredrick P. Brooks said in "The Mythical Man Month" about such attempts to use a "Tech surge" to get a failing project working. If there is anything I can say for sure, it's that throwing people at a project like this will only make i

  • by Great Big Bird (1751616) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:41PM (#45483397)
    Time to grow up now.
  • by sideslash (1865434) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:42PM (#45483409)
    "Here, you're an expert, so fix our website. By the way, you can't make any decisions."

    I think there are too many layers of dysfunctional bureaucracy. It doesn't really matter how good the designated website fixer is if they don't have the power to actually make stuff work.
    • by bobbied (2522392)

      It's even more crazy than that... If you actually make it work, you get to stop collecting checks from your deep pocketed client who is desperate to fix it and doesn't really care how much they spend to accomplish their goals. Plus, the longer this goes, the more desperate they will be. As desperation increases, so does the potential profit.

      So for the unethical, it's onto the gravy train, start billing as many hours as you can while keeping the train rolling for as long as possible.

      Not having the power

  • Incompetent boobs. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jamesl (106902) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:50PM (#45483507)

    ... you'd think they would have told us if they had.

    You'd think they would have told us before October 1 that there were going to be some problems with healthcare.gov. They were either ignorant, incompetent or in denial.

    The legislators don't know enough to ask the right questions nor do they have the training and experience needed to understand large system development.

    In Congress its a case of the blind leading the deaf.

    • The intent has always been to eliminate every health insurance company and have the US Govt issue all "health insurance" in a single payer system, as recounted by Obama on video amongst others in Democrat circles.

      If they don't make this Healthcare.gov work, I can see the cry that we need to move to a single payer system, but unfortunately can't see the Govt. doing anything right or efficient.

      • bullshit. You really think that the goal of this boondoggle was to put these bastards out of business? "Here, Aetna and BCBS, have a gazillion healthy premium payers that aren't going to cost you a nickel!" That's supposed to eliminate them? One of the reasons I'm against Obamacare is that I'm pro single payer. This system is definitely a step in the wrong direction. Why do you think the Republicans were all for this approach back in the nineties? It makes big businesses bigger, which means more campaign do
    • by Phil-14 (1277)

      Uh, last I checked, the people who actually wrote this law lost control of the House (but not the Senate) three years ago.

      You look as if you're trying to blame the current Congress for a law they didn't write and furthermore oppose.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:01PM (#45483621) Homepage Journal

      The legislators don't know enough to ask the right questions nor do they have the training and experience needed to understand large system development.

      It's not fair to expect Congress to be an expert on all these things - that's impossible. Literally.

      Which is why the framers limited the Congress's authority to thirty narrowly defined powers [tenthamendmentcenter.com]. That's a reasonable number for one organization to handle.

      Healthcare advocates should recognize that if they want healthcare to work well, having Congress wield the power to control it is a bad solution.

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @04:11PM (#45484385)

        Who then? Private industry has shown they can't do it. No country on the entire planet has a working private health care system.

        On the other hand there are a number of countries that do pretty well with public systems.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      ... you'd think they would have told us if they had.

      You'd think they would have told us before October 1 that there were going to be some problems with healthcare.gov. They were either ignorant, incompetent or in denial.

      Indications are that they choose to ignore what they where being told by their contractor. They had a political agenda and where choosing to lie about the situation in the off chance of a miracle or that the news cycle rescues them from the public flogging that was (is still) coming.

      So far, there hasn't been an earthquake, terrorist attack or something else to deflect public attention from this yet so the beating continues in the polls.

    • by _xeno_ (155264)

      You'd think they would have told us before October 1 that there were going to be some problems with healthcare.gov. They were either ignorant, incompetent or in denial.

      No, they flat out lied. They knew back in March that the site wouldn't work. [npr.org] And that's an NPR link, lest someone accuse me of linking to a right-wing source.

    • by Tailhook (98486)

      legislators don't know enough ... nor do they have the training and experience

      Congress doesn't run the day-to-day of the Federal government. Congress has never been, is not now, and will never be, competent to do things like implement a new function of government. That is WHY we have an Executive branch. Keep that in mind as you listen to Carney, Obama and the rest try to blame Congress for this debacle, and the many, many debacles yet to come.

      The Congress we have today did not vote for Obamacare, does not support Obamacare and will not be taking responsibility for Obamacare, whic

      • The industry will spin up new insurance corps that won't touch the government insurance if they are allowed. Leaving those that got in bed with the government as a warning to others.

        The truly important moment will be when it crashes and burns. By then the pendulum will be back to the right so dreams of single payer will be dashed. That and it will start to be apparent we're actually broke by then.

  • Would it be possible to divert some of the load from the servers. Kind of like a bouncer on a club door, so many gain admission they are able to be processed the rest get knocked back until there is a free spot on the actual servers processing the applications. At least that way some of the applications get processed instead of the servers being overwhelmed.

    For bonus points bring more servers online if the design can cope with it.

    I'm thinking of something like a load balancer but rooting some requests to de

    • by DaHat (247651)

      That would have required a competent and well thought out design from the outset... then having it be implemented correctly... or verifying the implementation works prior to launch.

      Instead we have a system that fails when you look at it normally, doesn't scale well, and turns out to be woefully incomplete (such as missing the payment system) for just a start... and all the supporters can do is blame 'high demand'... which is odd, when you pass a law promising to offer affordable health insurance to 48 milli

    • The load isn't on the front-end, it's on the enterprise service bus that talks to all the various government agencies, verifying eligibility status or whatnot. That, and the whole procedure is synchronous, so that it's trying to mix this validation with the user experience instead of sending an email afterwards to let you know whether it worked. (Source: Spoke to Some Guy in the industry.)

      If it is just a matter of too many people on at once, I suppose they could assign people timeslots. But it'd be pretty i

    • by Bartles (1198017)
      Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when the website is working as intended. Then 48 million people can see how expensive the insurance they are forced to buy actually is. Or maybe like me, they will be denied access to healthcare.gov, and be forced to enroll in medicaid if they want health insurance. Strange considering that 2 months ago I had a better than Platinum level plan that cost me $165 a month.
  • By now, most Americans have either heard or learned firsthand that the Healthcare.gov website doesn't work right.

    The problems seem to go beyond that. It is now being reported that major subsystems are not even implemented. The "plan" seems to have been to implement the "sign up" subsystem by October. Now we have learned that other subsystems were not to be implemented until Jan 2014. Ex:

    "A crucial system for making payments to insurers from people who enroll in that federal Obamacare marketplace has yet to be built, a senior government IT official admitted Tuesday. The official, Henry Chao, visibly stunned Rep. Cor

    • Oh please - we already implemented it in the True West - CA and WA are way ahead of you.

      Stop pushing your Big Government Red State solutions when Blue States have solutions that already work.

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        The problems seem to go beyond that. It is now being reported that major subsystems are not even implemented. The "plan" seems to have been to implement the "sign up" subsystem by October. Now we have learned that other subsystems were not to be implemented until Jan 2014. Ex:

        "A crucial system for making payments to insurers from people who enroll in that federal Obamacare marketplace has yet to be built, a senior government IT official admitted Tuesday. The official, Henry Chao, visibly stunned Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) when he said under questioning before a House subcommittee that a significant fraction of HealthCare.gov—30 to 40 percent of it—has yet to be constructed ... Chao on Tuesday said other areas that need to be built include "the back-office systems, the accounting systems."" http://www.cnbc.com/id/101211556 [cnbc.com] [cnbc.com]

        This "learning moment" for IT project management is going to be with us for a while.

        Oh please - we already implemented it in the True West - CA and WA are way ahead of you.

        So you are pointing out that some things can be better done at the state level? Who is making big government red state arguments in this discussion? :-)

        Stop pushing your Big Government Red State solutions when Blue States have solutions that already work.

        So directly quoting "a senior government IT" official testifying before Congress and characterizing the situation as a teachable moment for IT project management is a political statement in your opinion? Well, that is a interesting perspective you have there. Are you sure you know who is viewing things through a political lense in this conversation?

  • by RKThoadan (89437) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:19PM (#45483835)

    You'd think that mentioning who is in charge of fixing it should be mentioned. That's just a quick google away and his name is Jeffrey Zientz. There's not a lot of information out there, but what is there seems reasonably positive. Here's npr's article: http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/10/23/240283860/white-house-turns-to-rock-star-manager-for-obamacare-fix [npr.org]

    Here's Washington Posts: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/10/24/who-is-jeffrey-zients-and-why-is-he-qualified-to-fix-healthcare-gov/ [washingtonpost.com]

  • by jeff13 (255285) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:27PM (#45483913) Homepage

    I've a question. I'm Canadian so I don't know. Just curious.

    Why can't you just go to a government office and sign up for Obamacare? Or can you? Personally, why people are surprised that a government website can't handle high traffic baffles my mind. What government website ever did? Anyho', really just interested in my first question. One factor I've been aware of is that the plan is administrated through the States, so I'm wondering of states hostile to Obama (Republicans) aren't offering it at their state or municipal offices?

    • by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:45PM (#45484083)

      You can. Not just local government offices, but local community centers. You can also call someone with the government over the phone to help you find insurance. Or, alternatively, you can get the information directly from the insurance companies (whom you have to sign up with anyway, even when using the website).

      There's an intentional obfuscation of the situation here to try and equate the roll out of the website with the roll out of the law. They are not the same thing.

      • by jeff13 (255285)

        Ah ha, thanx for the reply. :)

      • by _xeno_ (155264)

        You can. Not just local government offices, but local community centers. You can also call someone with the government over the phone to help you find insurance.

        Uh, you can, but it won't do you any good: they all just use the website to sign you up. Those options are for people without computers, not ways around the website.

        Or, alternatively, you can get the information directly from the insurance companies (whom you have to sign up with anyway, even when using the website).

        This, however, will work. You just won't get to price compare.

        There's an intentional obfuscation of the situation here to try and equate the roll out of the website with the roll out of the law. They are not the same thing.

        But they are a great demonstration of why we don't want the government running something as important as healthcare. If they can't do something as simple as build a website, do you really want them involved in deciding if you live or die?

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @03:29PM (#45483931)

    Fixing a failed or behind software project in my experience was like stories I heard about battlefield medicine. You have to establish a system of triage where you realistically work under the assumption that not everything can be saved. At least not anytime in the near future. You're knee deep in digital blood stripping out one layer of feature after the other right down to the last thing that did work properly, and you have to start with what is the most simplest thing a user absolutely must be able to do that without that ability the project would be considered completely pointless and fix that before you write any other code. You have to act in a way towards users that might seem indifferent or cold, ignoring users' screams about your removing their daily reminder widget and you have to tell them in a tactful way that you won't put it back in anytime soon because your number one priority is making sure the accounting systems can actually add numbers correctly; you also have to make sure that if those users' are powerful stakeholders and order you to add back the fun happy reminded widget that they can be properly countermanded by higher authorities who have the authority to get them to shut up and sit on their hands.

    In short, you have to piss a lot of people off and be committed to accomplishing your grim task.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by WillAffleckUW (858324)

      Agree with the concept of triage. We know what works - CA and WA already did it.

      Do that, or go to an even simpler single payer national healthcare system like Medicare and Medicaid or the VA model.

      Those work.

      Big Government Red State solutions don't. They just lard up the contractors.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "In short, you have to piss a lot of people off and be committed to accomplishing your grim task."

      Great turn of phrase. Sounds a lot like teaching remedial math.

  • I think my standard "rescue our failed project" proposal applies here.

    "In situations like this, I usually recommend arson."

  • > although we haven't heard that they've selected a strong turnaround manager and set him or her to work on the project -- and you'd think they would have told us if they had.

    My guess is, there are some things not even a skilled turnaround manager can fix, and being associated with such a project might be a career-limiting move. A really skilled turnaround manager would recognize this, and decline the opportunity.

  • 30-40% (Score:2, Troll)

    by argStyopa (232550)

    That is the 'percent complete' the IT folks who made the Obamacare site estimate that it was when it launched.

    Some people, including Obama, say the site had 'bugs'. It didn't have bugs. It was not complete and had never been tested.

    So at $600 Million and change, we got 30% of a website that is central for people getting the healthcare that the government mandates that they get.

    Furthermore, part of the 60%-70% that is unfinished are the parts that pay the insurance companies.

    Let that one sink in. The compani

  • Proof [ecaminc.com]

    Surely they could have come up with a different name than "National Speakers Association"? Did they think that the initialism for "National Association of Speakers" was far too apt?

  • I registered mid-October and had a slew of problems including a "fatal" hangup on ID verification that has not yet fixed itself. So, I just started over with a new email address and login a week ago and was able to go through the whole registration without problems. Whatever bugs there were in the system must have corrupted older account data.

    There are still the intermittent down times in the evenings.

  • Best explanation ever of how government contracting actually works:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXQ2lO3ieBA [youtube.com]

    It's easy to blame the contractors, but the reality is that most of the problems stem from a customer that can't make up its mind about what it wants.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

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