Obamacare and a website


I was listening to the hearings about the Obamacare website failures today.  Before we get started on if the law is a good one, let me tell you that this is not about that. I’m not going there. My feeling is that there is no room for politics in computers. I want to focus on the creation of the website. To be exact, lets talk about the team that would create a website of that size. HUGE! I’ve been there and done that.

Whether you are developing a computer application, system, or website, sometimes you have to have a team. If the project is big enough, there may be several teams involved. Project planning, development, coding, infrastructure, testing, implementation teams can be as small or as big as the project requires. Depending on where your strongest skill sets are, that is the team your assigned. There is no room for weak links. Sometimes though they do slip through the cracks.

As you might imagine communications between the teams, and the end customer is the most critical thing. It’s the first thing you have to establish is who is talking to who.  Each team elects a representative who then updates the other teams on how things are going, present issues, and ask questions. Once that meeting happens. other meetings are held to inform the customer as to what is going on.  By the end of the, fill in the time frame of your choice,  everyone who needs to know is told what is going on with the project.  Kinda sounds a little familiar doesn’t it. It has that government feel to it.

Now the real fun begins. The teams march forth in order of importance, to complete the tasks at hand. Project budgets, milestones, dates, and deliverables are planned out. Requirements for the outcome of the project is to be are drawn up. If there are any scripts written, the coding team takes the specifications to produce the needed applications. When new computers, networks, or other resources are needed to make the process go, the infrastructure people are all over it. The next to last team is what I like to call the “break it if you can” team. These people are the ones who test all the parts that make up the given solution.  Last, but not least are the people that make the solution live and accessible to everyone. In these days, there is also teams for security and for supporting the solution.  You really can get out of hand with creating teams.

When people work well together and everyone is talking to each other, projects end successfully.  The biggest things that can throw a wrench in the mix are last minute changes. Here you are creating something from nothing. Someone wants to say turn some functionality off. On the surface, that doesn’t sound all that bad. Just turn those areas off and retest. Now let me give this picture an atmosphere.  This drama is playing out in Washington D.C. and the project is a website for a highly political piece of legislation.  Project commitment dates are cast in stone.  The American public is waiting to see this thing in action. Can you imagine the pressure cooker that I just created for you? You could make a TV show from that premise alone. If any Hollywood types out there reading this, please email you inquires to rhorner@hornerconsulting.com.

I have to say that I do feel sorry for the people that worked on that website. From news reports, this is not a done deal by a long shot. Some of the decisions made were a bit shaky at best. They will fix the website and the people involved will sit back and laugh over, insert your favorite choice of drink here, when it’s done. I have some experience in working on big projects. If there are any government types that need a little help clearing the fog, please email me at rhorner@hornerconsulting.com. Good luck my IT brothers and sisters. I feel your pain.

Later… rrh

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