Obamacare Website - the Tip of the IT Iceberg


The current Obamacare website has been a wonderful source of publicity and insight into the world of IT. Having spent multiple years on countless projects (some much larger than Obamacare) it’s great to see pundits, politicians and others voice an opinion on what should have been done.  

In IT, there are an untold number of similar stories. IT projects with failed deployments and cost overruns - most of which never appear on CNN or in the footnotes of the latest financial reports.  

Having worked with multiple CEOs and leadership teams on how to avoid IT failures before they happen or remediate during the process, it’s wise to pay attention to those in the trenches.

A preemptive strike to avoid IT failure is possible. It includes looking at the following items:

  • Accountability - Who is going to define, design and deploy the IT capability (or, how many cooks are going to be in the kitchen)? Are resources integrated into one team?
  • Solution - Is the solution too complicated to be viable? Has anyone taken a hard look at requirements with a focus on simplification or a phased rollout? In most cases failure occurs when trying to deploy current state processes with new technology. 
  • Communication and change management  - Ignore this topic and you will fail, hands down. The impact of change will cut across staff, process, and technology, and require training and realignment of tasks.
  • Test  - You can never do too much testing. If you think you have tested everything, go get another opinion. Attempt to keep your testing team engaged, and at the same time objective about the ability of the developed functionality to efficiently and effectively meet the intended requirements.

Why did the rollout of the Obamacare website fail? One explanation is that the items listed above were likely ignored. The real crisis for IT is that most companies are only focused on the tip of the iceberg, continuing to ignore the steps surrounding each initiative required to deliver quality functionality.