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Monday, October 28, 2013

Ending Up Somewhere Else

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.”
That saying, attributed to Yogi Berra, most likely applies to the failure of the Obamacare web site.

In order for IT projects to succeed, they need to be carefully thought through in advance.  What the project is intended to accomplish and how it is to work need to be clearly stated before the system designers and programmers put pen to paper. 

Apparently that did not happen to sufficient extent in the case of the Obamacare web site. 

An article on the subject that appeared in the October 26 issue of the New York Times included a revealing statement.  It quoted a contractor as saying that one source of the problem was a late decision requiring consumers to register for an account before they could browse for insurance products.

I suspect that is one of many late decisions that should have been made before detailed planning got under way.

The Obamacare web site story is common in both the public and private sectors.

One reason, I think, is that management positions at the upper levels of such organizations tend to be occupied by people who graduated from college before computers.  They think of computers as black boxes that require trained specialists to run them and so instead of doing the arduous work of thinking through what they want the computer to do and resolving the issues involved in making it happen, they just dump the matter into the lap of the nerds and hope for the best.

Salespeople for IT contractors may know that projects are poorly conceived, but are not likely to put contracts at risk by telling potential customers that they haven’t done their homework.

Sometimes things work out smoothly anyway, but often they don’t.  The Obamacare web site is one that didn’t.

Perhaps the next generation, computer literate from birth, won’t have these problems.

 

 

 

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