Realistic programming deadlines and healthcare.gov
Glitches or bugs in new software or web based systems happen every day. The major bugs that are occurring with healthcare.gov are no surprise. Often times these glitches and bugs are a result of non-technical staff not fully understanding what they are asking programmers to do, or having unrealistic timelines.
Let me go on record here and say that I am not against Obamacare, nor is this a political post. This post is to address complications that could arise in large systems and overly optimistic deadlines.
Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about issues that may be happening with healthcare.gov. This is a large website with many moving parts and multiple system integrations. This is no static website, this is a living, breathing entity.
In our experience, some things that may cause bugs in rushing the launch of a site of this magnitude are the following:
1. Poor communication. More often then not a developer/programmer is not part of the key discussion regarding realistic expectations from the start. In our experience, high-level managers or directors often promise deadlines that are from a programmers viewpoint, unrealistic and unattainable.
2. Rushing. Whenever a client or potential client asks us "How fast can you get this done?" We like to answer with "Do you want it done fast or do you want it done right?". Rushing programming leads to errors, errors can lead to security problems.
3. Launched before its time. Many times clients get excited when they see light at the end of the tunnel. Once a system is near completion, clients get antsy and want to launch it immediately. Many times, prior to completing all necessary testing to eliminate bugs and or glitches. Face it, bugs and glitches go hand in hand with programming. And, when you are talking about a large, multifunctional website, you are looking at the potential of lots of errors.
Think about it this way, healthcare.gov is a very complex system. It requires high-level security, it needs to withstand high traffic, and it must integrate with many other systems. From a systems integration standpoint, this site must function seamlessly with insurance providers, various government offices and more. This website needs to assist in calculating if the client is entitled to government subsidies, or discounts based on income. So, that is another feature that needs to work with other systems to determine correct pricing information. The amount of code required for this site to function is gargantuan.
With all these moving parts, it's no wonder there are errors. Time crunches on launch dates require programming staff to "burn the midnight oil" and work all hours of the day and night, 24/7. This schedule will also cause problems.
We don't profess to have the answers to any of the problems that heathcare.gov is experiencing. We just understand what the programmers working on it are probably going through. They are more than likely being asked to create the equivalent of the Egyptian Pyramids in weeks and they know they are being tasked with something that is unreasonable. So, next time when you are undertaking a large scale development project, make sure you take the time to not only listen but to hear any and all concerns your developers might have. Programmers understand the clients need their systems live as fast as possible, but what's more important to them is that it works flawlessly. Next time you have a project when contemplating the deadline or launch date ask yourself "Do you want it done fast, or do you want it done right?". This is a key question for you to consider before deciding on which developer to work with. If we can answer any questions you have about potential projects and realistic deadlines, feel free to contact us.