HealthCare.gov was launched on October 1, 2013 aimed at providing Americans with a safe and convenient way to search for health insurance options. It was authorized to be launched despite a government memo pointing out an issue on its “limitless” risks and other potential threats. Documents purportedly showed that the whole system still has hardware glitches, software bugs, and security risks. It does not even have enough capacity to accommodate millions of Americans who need the service.
Now, news is circling around about how the whole project messed up, what went wrong, and who could be held responsible. The Obama administration is promising that by December, the site will already be fixed while technical experts believe it is implausible.
The damage has been done, however, and for outsourcing companies like us, it’s an opportunity to provide clear insights as to how to avoid such kind of letdown. Here are some tips and reminders that we, as outsourcing providers, must assess, time and again, to make sure we’re utilizing all project success ingredients:
1. Make sure goals and objectives are well-defined.
Gather all representatives of all project stakeholders and finalize project goals and objectives. Set the responsibilities and expectations for each member of the project, and create a framework based on these overall goal and streamlined objectives.
2. Assemble the best team, resources, and all other requirements.
Make sure that right from the start of the planning phase; everything you’re going to need in the project is 100% available – your team, your equipment, facilities, and even the funds. This also requires you to ensure that you have the best suppliers.
ITToolKit.com put it well together:
“The first step to team success begins with initial organization: to assemble and organize available resources capable of working together as a whole through the integration of individual skills, talents and personalities.”
3. Know your end-users.
It is never enough that you know the requirements of your clients. You must also know the requirements and characteristics of the end-users of your product.
HealthCare.gov failed to accommodate the actual population of American citizens who need an online health insurance marketplace because the team failed to anticipate and understand how big the market is. If they did, the website’s capacity would be much bigger than the expected volume of users.
4. Know that you are not Jack and the Beanstalk
Do not accept mammoth projects that are expected to be out the next morning. Always overestimate project duration, especially for inventive projects and pioneering technologies like HealthCare.gov.
IT projects always require time for quality assurance, testing, and beta-testing. Have room for errors. Always have room for add-ons and improvements. Always make an allowance.
5. Always educate the middlemen.
Account managers, coordinators, and facilitators must consistently be as knowledgeable as the technical experts themselves. They are the front-liners in the battle, and they must be able to communicate to the clientele each and every situation in the backend.
Many IT problems arise when account executives fail to communicate high-risk issues to clients. Middlemen are supposed to bridge this gap between the technicians and the end-users. Hence, they must literally be at the center of the project and of arguments and conflicts.
6. Always bank on user experience.
It is always the end-goal of an IT product. Hence, it should be the top-level priority when encountering issues and that need big decisions.
According to Jacob Gube of Smashing Magazine, “a website’s success still hinges on just one thing: how users perceive it. ‘Does this website give me value? Is it easy to use? Is it pleasant to use?’ These are the questions that run through the minds of visitors as they interact with our products, and they form the basis of their decisions on whether to become regular users.”
What happened with HealthCare.gov is that users aren’t happy at all – they are actually frustrated.
7. Set and adhere to standards.
Never put out a product to the market without adhering to international standards. There is ISO 29119 for software testing and ISO 20000 for service management. There are also IT Standards on disciplines including Information Security, IT Service Management, IT Governance and Business Continuity.
These are just some of the lessons we want to point out coming from the HealthCare.gov debacle that has been going on in the news, but let us acknowledge: not a single IT project has zero-error tolerance.
Graham Purkins says, “Outsourcing provides a valuable tool to enhance development programmes and support business activities. Used correctly it provides a flexible, effective and cost efficient tool that can dramatically impact business results. To deliver a successful outcome requires a thorough understanding of the process along with careful management of the relationships to minimize the areas where difficulties can arise and maximize the benefits.”