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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Letter: Disaster unfolds

  • We're seeing the Obamacare insurance website disaster unfold.
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  • To the editor:
    We're seeing the Obamacare insurance website disaster unfold.
    Project management, in the business world, is a highly developed art, if not a science. Huge, complex software development efforts, such as the Obamacare website, are routinely done on schedule and within budget in the corporate world.
    Project managers use a host of techniques to create a well-documented design, break the development effort into manageable tasks, and construct computer-supported charts which show dependencies among tasks (such as, for building a house, you can't begin nailing up studs before the foundation is poured). As the project goes forward, the project manager tracks the progress of each task, inspects them on completion, and continually updates the estimated completion date. Change control is a hugely important part of project development: if a change to the design is demanded, the entire project plan is updated and the new costs in resources and money are estimated as well.
    In a decently run project, there is always a test plan. For big projects, there is usually a test team, independent from the developers, who do the testing and sign off when it's done.
    A big online computer system such as the Obamacare website should be extensively tested for function. It should also be tested to see if it breaks under heavy volume.
    Having spent many years in business, and having worked in various aspects of project development, I strongly suspect the Obamacare website was developed without a competent project manager for the entire project. That's particularly important when you use several contractors, and you have a very complex software product to deliver. Further, I think Sibelius and Obama, the executives in charge, are too inexperienced to know that. An experienced executive in the presidency and in the treasury would have made certain all these controls and techniques were in place, and would have hired a decent project manager. Betting the farm by putting the whole country online, all at once, smacks of obscene incompetence. I don't think it would have happened under Romney.
    Now, I'm sure the development team is under extreme pressure to fix the bugs, which probably involves some redesign, and I'll be amazed if they can get it done by Dec 1. Fixing the problems becomes a major new project in itself. I wonder if they even know what went wrong, and will continue to go wrong without a competent project manager.

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