Oct/23
2013

Who Fucked Up The Obamacare Website? The Answer Is...

CGI Federal. Actually more specifically, VERY specifically, it was the MANAGERS at CGI Federal. Basically what it came down to was the typical bullshit: poor communication, refusing to manage customer demands, and the firm belief that intimidating the developers will get the work done on time.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Crammed into conference rooms with pizza for dinner, some programmers building the Obama administration's showcase health insurance website were growing increasingly stressed. Some worked past 10 p.m., energy drinks in hand. Others rewrote computer code over and over to meet what they considered last-minute requests for changes from the government or other contractors. As questions mount over the website's failure, insider interviews and a review of technical specifications by The Associated Press found a mind-numbingly complex system put together by harried programmers who pushed out a final product that congressional investigators said was tested by the government and not private developers with more expertise.
Of the three agencies sharing the nearly $400 million dollar boo-yah-hah contract CGI is the most to blame, although Maryland-based Quality Software Services Inc. and Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. couldn't have been blind to the issues. I know BAH they do design complex shit, mostly for the point of complexity not functionality, but that's how they make their name. They embrace the latest buzzwords, design patterns, methodologies so they can look down their blue-suited snoots and say "well, aren't *you* familiar with the latest technology?" Yay whoop. However putting that complexity aside they typically do solid work and on such a high-profile piece as the ACA it's hard to imagine that they'd fuck up. As for Quality Software I can see some issues there too, just looking at the list of executives. It's fair to believe that this little job shop may have outsourced a chunk of the development, not that I'm slamming developers in India for not caring about American healthcare. Ok, maybe I am. But QS happens to be a subsidiary of Optum which provides consulting services for health care initiatives. Or more succinctly...
At Optum, we help to advance the industry’s efforts through several initiatives that bring new meaning and deep analytical insights. We tap a global network that includes health care leaders, physicians, medical experts, clinicians, health economists and analysts. These leaders represent some of the brightest minds in health care and are drawn from across Optum’s businesses. (Optum marketing crappola)
So, if they contributed to the ACA design as clearly as they explain what they do you can see where the "overly complex" layer got even more complex after BAH's design. Really opinion-makers do little when it comes to displaying a menu of health insurance options. I mean that's all the website had to do didn't it? But back to the main villains in this set piece: the managers at CGI. Wanna know what they did? Ready? They provided...
Technology that lowers costs and enhances productivity (CGI Solutions website)
ROFL. Yes. Exactly. They did stuff with technology to lower cost and enhance the ability of Americans to sigh up for health care. NOT. Actually they took a lot of money and did a piss-poor job of managing a project reliably and on time. Money makes everyone a little crazy, and the problem with big, honkin' contracts like this was that any attempt to manage up is lost when the potential exists for follow-on work. Sadly the follow-on work will be actually making the website reliable and available. I have a feeling that an up-time in the area of 4 to 5 9's was specified in the requirements but you sure as shit know that no one load tested the system. Hell, they were happy just to have some smiling heads on the front page when you hit the URL the first time. The President is under pressure to name names and make someone take the fall for the lousy implementation, after all a complicated design can succeed if properly planned and executed, tons of sky scrapers and bridges have proven that. The problem is that the middle managers who were the real issue will never take the hit. They were the ones that knew the issues existed, but buried them alive instead. They were also the ones who should have been pushing back against against changes and demands from the customer. Sadly, the only thing these assholes managed were their own egos, likely telling their staff that in this economy they were lucky to even have a job. Frankly seeing ALL the managers from CGI Federal get the chop is the RIGHT solution, and an equally unlikely one. Blameshifting is a hot managerial skill these days, one that tops integrity by several orders of magnitude. The worst part is that all the poor bitches and bastards that did code nights and weekends are only going to get more of the same, or worse... they'll be on the other side of the server trying to sign up and knowing full fucking well why they can't.
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