Obamacare and the Oscillation Overthruster

| October 28, 2013


There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. — Henry David Thoreau

There is a pattern I commonly see in troubled or failing IT projects, a near-constant oscillation over a period of weeks in the system’s readiness and/or stability. It appears for a while that progress is being made, and those in charge give optimistic projections for when the system will be finally ready to function as intended. Then, some new defects or problems crop up, and the project is delayed yet again. Depending on whether the system has actually been deployed, you can classify the fact pattern as “Faulty Towers” (if in production) or as “The Never-Ending Story” (if not in production), or sometimes a blend of the two (if in production, but so bad as to be nearly useless).

When you look at the history of such projects, here’s what you typically see:

  • The project is approaching its current deadline/estimate release date.
  • An all-out push is made to fix as many defects as possible.
  • A short period before that date — just a few weeks, or even just a few days — the deadline is slipped due to new or reappearing defects.
  • Rinse and repeat.

That’s pretty much it. I have seen projects that over a period of a year have perpetually been “four to six weeks” away from system stabilization without ever achieving it.

When I analyze such projects, I usually find that the reason for that oscillation is an unwillingness to take the time to trace defects and performance problems back to first causes. There is such pressure on all parties involved that all efforts are made to “close out bugs” (fix defects) — even if such bugs are closed in a rather dubious fashion — declare victory, and go home. They are, in fact, hacking at the leaves without ever striking at the root. The result?

OK, a stretch perhaps, but too good a quote to pass up. Besides, it ties into the previous Star Wars theme.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the usual coping mechanism for missed deadlines is to reduce functionality, performance, and/or quality. What I expect to see in the next five weeks is just that: a constant defining-down of what Healthcare.gov is supposed to accomplish. The on-going delay of the Spanish-language version of Healthcare.gov — which has gone from “a few weeks” to “indefinitely” (warning: annoying auto-play video) — is a good example of that.

By an odd coincidence, the end of November — the new projected “all is well” date for Healthcare.gov — happens to be Thanksgiving weekend.

Expect a bad news dump on Black Friday.  ..bruce w..

P. S. Click here to see all my Obamacare posts.


Be Sociable, Share!

Category: 2014 Election, Creeping socialism, Healthcare Reform, Idiot bureaucrats, Information Technology, Main, Obama Administration, Obamacare

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Zombie John Gotti says:

    People using O-care will be assigned a specific 15-minute block to login and register. If they fail to do so, they will go to the end of the line. That should keep traffic to a minimum.

  2. bfwebster says:

    Healthcare.gov appears to have already been doing some form of throttling, a common technique for limiting website access to reduce traffic: you either deny the login (with a ‘try back again’ message) or park the user in a ‘waiting room’ unless there’s throughput available. I’ve seen it done in commercial websites when, say, a particular server needs to be taken down for maintenance or software upgrading.