What does a company do when their website goes down? Do they kick and scream about how it isn’t fair? Do they criticize others for their own inefficiencies? Or do they pick up the pieces, find the issue and move on with their lives?
The issues with the HealthCare.gov website have become the center of debate in Congress for the past few days. Democrats are saying the issues will be fixed and U.S. citizens will be able to shop for insurance effectively on the new website by the end of November. Republicans are twisting this to their advantage as to why, Obamacare as a whole, is flawed.
The real issue however, is simply that our government has no clue about how software development and testing actually works.
The U.S. Government is kicking and screaming and criticizing others for their own inefficiencies over the poor management of, yes that’s right, a website. Unfortunately, they probably won’t pick up the pieces and move on. Instead they’d rather waste the American people’s time and money arguing over whose fault it is instead of tackling the problem. We’ve all heard it before, so I digress.
Mistakes happen, and defects will always come to the surface after a product is launched. It’s the reality of software. But if an organization--whether it be a company, a contractor or a government agency--releases defective software because they didn’t test it, there is no pity for you. Quite frankly, you deserve all the blame you get.
I blame the government officials for hiring ineffective contractors, I blame the executives of CGI Federal and QSSI that contracted the work and poorly managed it, and I put some blame on the developers and testers who took part in a project when they knew there wasn't enough time to meet a deadline and decided to cut corners because their boss told them to. The testers had two weeks to test a website that millions of people would be accessing.
CGI claims that they just did what the White House told them to do. It is the moral responsibility of the development and testing team to bring up issues with any requirement to the stakeholders. From the sound of it, it sounds like CGI just did what they were told, and didn’t bring up the issues. For instance, there was a bottleneck in the sign up process, because everyone who wanted to browse health insurance options on the site had to sign up first. The argument has been made that you shouldn’t need to sign up until after you have decided to buy from the website. This is how most eCommerce sites work.
If they couldn’t even get a simple sign up and login process correct, how can you trust this website at all? What other issues have the contractors failed to bring up to the stakeholders? If they just waited to see what kind of defects would pop up when the site went live, chances are there are hundreds of other defects that haven’t been found. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see over the next six months. Oh and don’t worry, if the site doesn’t work for you before March 2014, they’ll still fine you.