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White House Reportedly Dismissing Key Healthcare.gov Contractor 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the assigning-blame dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Months after a problem-riddled rollout of the Healthcare.gov Website, the White House is dismissing a key contractor, CGI Federal, that built much of the portal, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper suggested the federal government is on the verge of signing a new contract with a replacement, Accenture, which has some experience in building online health-insurance portals on the state level. 'We are in discussions with potential clients all the time but it is not appropriate to discuss with the media contracts we may or may not be discussing,' an Accenture spokesperson is quoted as saying. Unnamed sources 'familiar with the matter' informed the Post of CGI Federal's dismissal, and suggested that it has much to do with continuing anger over the botched introduction of Healthcare.gov, as well as the pace of continuing repairs to the Website. As their contract is due to expire anyway at the end of February, government officials reportedly decided that it was the perfect time to pull the plug with a minimum of legal ramifications."
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White House Reportedly Dismissing Key Healthcare.gov Contractor

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  • Accenture? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:36PM (#45919797)

    Holy fucking shit we're fucked.

    • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:46PM (#45919921) Journal

      No shit. [computerworld.com]

      (...wait, let me guess - they'll want to move the whole damned thing to an IIS platform too, right?)

      • Re:Accenture? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:51PM (#45919991)

        There is nothing wrong with the IIS platform. Accenture is the issue. The vast majority of their PM team cannot find their dick with both hands.

        • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:01PM (#45920115) Journal

          There is nothing wrong with the IIS platform. Accenture is the issue. The vast majority of their PM team cannot find their dick with both hands.

          Never said it was wrong or right - but it's a common trick with large contractors to declare your existing platform obsolete, insecure, or underpowered, and (after you signed the contract) demand that you shove over to their preferred platform. Of course, they'll point to some esoteric half-hidden legalese thing in the contract that your non-tech legal department completely glossed over, and you never got to see.

          This means they get extra money, more time to ETA, and they move you to whatever they're more comfortable with. It also has the danger of locking you in even tighter come the next contract renewal.

        • There is nothing wrong with the IIS platform.

          What plausible reason could there be for moving a project to IIS? Does IIS have any advantages over free alternatives?

          • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gstoddart (321705) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:37PM (#45920527) Homepage

            What plausible reason could there be for moving a project to IIS? Does IIS have any advantages over free alternatives?

            Clearly, you've not dealt with companies who have built their world around a specific technology before.

            Those companies tend to be like hammer-makers -- they view everything as a problem to be solved with a hammer.

            We once had a manger (well, briefly, he was someone's drinking buddy) who was a huge RDB ER-diagram nut.

            Now, our system wasn't an RDB, and was never going to be. In fact, it was nothing at all like an RDB. But, he insisted on making reams of meaningless ER-diagrams which had nothing at all to do with the system.

            We repeatedly told him his diagrams had nothing to do with our system, and that there was no point in creating ER-diagrams that didn't apply, and that we were not going to use them because they were meaningless. He continued to insist that the only workable way to describe what we were doing was with an ER-diagram, and continued to produce even more. Of course, since the ER-diagrams were meaningless, they neither described the system as it existed, nor as it was supposed to be.

            Eventually, his pretty little models were demonstrated to be pure fantasy, completely unrelated to the software at hand, and mostly just something he did to make it look like he was productive. And, to top it off, they were done in software he owned a copy of, but the company didn't -- which means nobody but him could do anything with them besides look at them and wonder what they were for.

            Someone finally understood what the developers had been saying for a while, and realized that not only was this guy not helping us get anything done, he was giving the ER diagrams to the client, who were then asking "what is this, and how does it relate to what we have". Eventually management realized what was happening, and got rid of him.

            It really isn't uncommon for someone to come in and more or less say "I consider myself an expert in X, and you are using Y, therefore in my professional opinion you need to start using X".

            It has nothing at all to do with the specific needs, or even the problem at hand. But it's what they know, and what they think everyone should be using.

            • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:53PM (#45923697)

              Hello. I am the guy who designed AND implemented 4 state healthcare solutions.

              Back when I worked for IBM I remember being the odd man out in a room full of Accenture people for a 80 million dollar insurance project (company rhymes with Farrmers .. no it was Farmers Insurance). So IBM is terrible and currently in a race to the bottom in terms of dollars spent on resources (My current contract has me and a few Indians plus a hundred worthless Chinese coding for IBM) BUT Accenture was a real eye opener.

              Imagine a world in which you are given a team of 8 people. 1 of them was a frat boy. 1 of them was a sorority girl and the other 6 of them just graduated from wherever and are learning on your dime. I have never, in my life of consulting which is LONG witness a more worthless fucking organization than Accenture. It exists purely to employ the most worthless and without talent amongst us and is perpetuated by the same.

              I hate IBM, I would kill your mother and fuck her rancid corpse to rid the earth of Accenture.

          • A lot! .NET and Java are a league of their own compared to script haven PHP, python, and others.

            You get a very rich platform that can grow big. After trying to learn Drupal it seems just like a big hack. Sure your Ruby on rails can do some cool things but can it do MVC, 3-tier SOA architecture, use Hibernate, linQ, or advanced data persistent frameworks for SQL databases that much Java Enterprise Edition or .NET?

            You can try to cook something together but who do you call for support if something breaks or a

            • by Kalriath (849904) on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:27PM (#45921751)

              You get a very rich platform that can grow big. After trying to learn Drupal it seems just like a big hack. Sure your Ruby on rails can do some cool things but can it do MVC, 3-tier SOA architecture, use Hibernate, linQ, or advanced data persistent frameworks for SQL databases that much Java Enterprise Edition or .NET?

              Yes Ruby can do MVC. Yes it can do 3-tier. No, it can't use Hibernate but it has ActiveRecord which serves a similar purpose, and yes it can use data persistence frameworks. I think you're being a little hard on it, and I'm a dyed in the wool .NET Developer.

    • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Informative)

      by msobkow (48369) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:47PM (#45919939) Homepage Journal

      No kidding. Accenture is one of the worst money-grabbing providers out there. They bring in the "top tech talent" for the initial meetings, then bill you the same rates for a horde of junior incompetents, and you never see that senior talent again.

      • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:55PM (#45920041) Homepage

        They bring in the "top tech talent" for the initial meetings, then bill you the same rates for a horde of junior incompetents, and you never see that senior talent again.

        But, really, do you see this as different from any IT organization/software company you've dealt with?

        The early enthusiasm and usefulness drops off pretty quick once the deal is signed and the sales guys get their commission checks.

        And then you have the people wondering how the hell to implement a flying car and deliver on the unicorns which were promised by the sales guys.

        I've certainly been on the receiving end of this from Oracle and a few others.

        The problem is the people who chase the deals and carefully craft the responses to make it look like you've solved the problem. In a lot of cases, it's basically a shell game.

        • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gregor-e (136142) on Friday January 10, 2014 @05:12PM (#45920917) Homepage
          No, it's that the first few weeks of a project, the people they send are actually pretty sharp, enough to make you wonder if maybe you should float a resume over there, since they're billing outrageous gobs for these sharp people, and, hell, if you only got half of that hourly rate it'd still be a good jump up. Then, one by one, they sub out the sharp people with complete drones who require tons of hand-holding and who make n00b mistakes that inevitably slow down the rate of progress. Conveniently, this allows them to bill even more hours at the same top-talent rate you were envious of. Your company ends up paying $200/hr for $20/hr talent, and pays for more hours of this crappy talent to boot.

          Anyone who contemplates renting talent from one of these big consultancy firms would do well to insist on naming specific individual developers in the contract, and add a performance penalty that multiplies the hourly billing rate by MIN(1.0, HOURS_QUOTED / HOURS_BILLED). That will prevent subbing in third-stringers billed at first-stringer rates and will provide diminishing returns for dilatory behavior, as well as incentivize them to think of everything that must be done before committing to a quote.
      • Re:Accenture? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:20PM (#45920333) Journal
        Accenture might actually deliver the "top tech talent," at least for the first year. They would be foolish not to, with such a high-profile (and expensive!) contract on the line.
        • by dlt074 (548126)

          it's a government contract. they'll get their money whether they produce the talent and a working product or not. there is no incentive for them to do anything but collect that government money.

    • Re:Accenture? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:54PM (#45920025)
      I have never known Accenture to do anything successfully. I worked for a company a few years ago that brought Accenture in to take over running their IT. It was supposed to speed up issue resolution, make experts available, and be less expensive.
      No, no, and NO! Plus they used getting this as a way to get their foot in the door, and then got their people into everything they could. The company is slowly failing.
      I went out and celebrated the day I got my layoff.
      • by Dan667 (564390)
        A company I worked at used a different company to run IT and in the contract they had a clause about 99.9999% uptime. What happened when they took over is that you were not allowed to do anything to the servers without 5 managers approving. Nothing ever got changed on the ones they managed and it effectively killed using them for work.
    • Healthcare via personal drone to your front door. At least they know how to create an online market.
    • Re:Accenture? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:11PM (#45920209) Journal

      Could be worse.

      If you think Accenture are incompetent vandals try to get anything done with IBM?

      They charge so much for the tiniest things and then call me about jobs to admin these systems for $24,000 a year. No I am seriously not exaggerating that either as they wanted to pay me $12/hr for a millions of dollar contracts for such systems.

      Great value these poor schmucks are getting for that price.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fbumg (632974)
        I can only speak from personal experience, but to me the big difference is that IBM is at least technically competent. I guess as an opponent of Obamacare I should be happy, as this will undoubtedly allow the problems to continue. But I feel for the people that may be depending/hoping for this to come together. Accenture? Really?
        • Well for $12/hr you wont find anyone outside of some college student and geeksquad guys.

          Bare in mind under the law people get penalized for not signing up for the expensive insurance so having it not work means you force poor people to be fined.

    • It seems just about everyone here agrees this is a crappy company.
      How come the gov decision makers don't know this? why was accenture chosen?
      What company would you all suggest as the right choice? and why can't the community (i.e. "we the people") alert them to this apparent bad decision? (I know nothing about this company or any good contractor to suggest myself)
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      But they'll be SO much better! I'm sure they'll bring the same level of professionalism and quality contractors that they did to YOUR project!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:39PM (#45919825)

    Accenture does a fairly good job with contract development and support. This doesn't seem to be a bad call.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:39PM (#45919837) Journal

    You can add another 9 months or more to allow whatever new contractor to take over the code base or start anew. And by the time, if ever, it is fully functional we can be sure the direction will have changed again.

    What I'd like to know is which taxpayers agreed on spending their taxes on this? The only citizens I found supporting this are those who do not pay income taxes.

    • by buswolley (591500) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:45PM (#45919903) Journal
      Taxes don't pay for Federal expenditures. That is a fallacy that is all too common.
      • by OffTheLip (636691)
        I guess the Department of the Treasury just prints the money they need, right?
        • by bobbied (2522392)
          To the tune of $1 Trillion a year they do effectively "print" money (some of it is physical currency, some is just digital). But to be honest, a lot of the money spent (Like about 70%) comes from Taxes, Duties, fees etc.
      • by RandomFactor (22447) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:53PM (#45920021)
        Ok.... so, what does, our children?
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:02PM (#45920121)

          No, other peoples' children. This is Slashdot, remember, the home of single basement-dwelling neckbeards.

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by Jason Levine (196982)

            Married Slashdotter with kids and my own house (within which I do not live in the basement) here.

            I love the sound of stereotypes smashing to pieces.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes and not really.
          Yes: everything is being paid for by government issued bonds and similar forms of federal debt.

          Not really: while bonds do have a cash-in date, the number of bonds issued each year increases by significantly more than the needed payout.

          There's also some very interesting accounting that a large portion of the federal debt is in bonds owned by the federal government ("I owe me" is apparently a viable trick if no one is ever recognized as having sufficient standing to oversee the books)

      • Good to know! I guess I can stop paying my federal income tax then!
    • by danlip (737336) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:58PM (#45920069)

      Accenture already did the California implementation. And they've already had time to work out the problem. Hopefully they wrote that code so it could easily be reused for the federal site (since it is Accenture, that may be a slim hope).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Accenture also produced the myCalPERS webapp used by California state employees to access and change information regarding their retirement accounts and fringe benefits. From what I know about it from people on the inside, that app is a disaster that is being slowly cleaned up and fixed by state employees as part of the state taking over responsibility for its maintenance. Accenture does not have a good track record. But the documentation they produced is good.

    • by dunezone (899268)

      What I'd like to know is which taxpayers agreed on spending their taxes on this? The only citizens I found supporting this are those who do not pay income taxes.

      Technically the 65,915,796 residents who voted for Obama in the 2012 election?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Dahamma (304068)

        Technically the 65,915,796 residents who voted for Obama in the 2012 election?

        And, as it turns out, many Republicans as well - they are just too ignorant of the actual ACA or brainwashed by their party leaders to realize they support most of the major provisions...

        http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/01/business/la-fi-mh-obamacare-20131001 [latimes.com]

      • by 3seas (184403)

        technically the election had the lowest percentage of qualified voters vote since before the 1948 election if not of all time (I only found information going back to the 1948 election and this last election 2012 was around 50% voted) and as it was something of a close race, it was the no vote that actually won. You don't even have to consider the manipulations of the electoral college, voting oddities, or the fact that Obama focused only on those states with key effect on the election count. The fact is, i

    • $20 says that there will be source code not passed along, requiring reverse engineering or rewrites.

      If I'm wrong, you'll have to see my ex because she has all my money.

      • by tftp (111690)

        $20 says that there will be source code not passed along, requiring reverse engineering or rewrites.

        It could be much worse. The new team can be given all the old code and asked to "fix" it ...

  • Hmmm ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:40PM (#45919847)

    And the next question is will these guys do any better?

    I've been involved in contracting with governments, and failures of projects are as often as not caused by the incompetence of the government people and their inability to understand what they want, but then blamed on the contractors who couldn't make the system do what it needed.

    As is always the case, some times the devil is in the details, and just because the project failed, doesn't mean the people blamed for it actually were the ones who made the project fail.

    Sometimes, it just means it's easier to blame the contractor, when in fact the client was completely inept.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      A contractor dealing with the government knows what they are getting into, or is incompetent in dealing with the government. If they can't deliver, then that is their fault. Part of requirements gathering is inferring unstated requirements. If you are too incompetent to "find" all the requirements, you shouldn't be developing.
    • Re:Hmmm ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:04PM (#45920143) Journal

      You are correct, but hiring a contractor with some rather spectacular failures (and numerous smaller ones) isn't exactly going to fix that...

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        You are correct, but hiring a contractor with some rather spectacular failures (and numerous smaller ones) isn't exactly going to fix that...

        Name me ONE contractor who has never had any failures, spectacular otherwise.

        Because I'm betting a lot of companies would love to engage them (if they exist).

        I've seen epic fails from IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and a fair few others.

        Hell, I was on a project once that had 11 PMs, 8 managers/Directors, coming from 5 different entities (3 of which were fully-owned divis

        • Every contracting company has had goofs, but it's hard to come up with a bigger boner than blowing up an entire stock market for a whole day, causing multi-billions in pounds of lost trade to fly up a bird's backside (see also the LSE and TradElect.)

          Microsoft and Accenture sucked that one down hard, and I don't think Microsoft ever had the cojones to go near stock exchanges ever since.

    • Re:Hmmm ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:18PM (#45920299)

      Sometimes, it just means it's easier to blame the contractor, when in fact the client was completely inept.

      Think about the worst requirements you've ever had to deal with. Now imagine 2700 pages of even worse requirements written by CONGRESS. Then throw Obama in the mix, issuing Executive Orders that change the system at every turn.

      • Think about the worst requirements you've ever had to deal with. Now imagine 2700 pages of even worse requirements written by CONGRESS. Then throw Obama in the mix, issuing Executive Orders that change the system at every turn.

        Okay, so the scariest environment imaginable. Thanks. That's all you gotta say, scariest environment imaginable.
    • by bobbied (2522392)

      And the next question is will these guys do any better?

      Depends on what you mean by "better". But I don't think it matters much who gets hired to do this now.

      I'm guessing that the website will continue to improve it's public face, but the back of office stuff (where the rubber really meets the road) will continue to be problematic. I don't think it will matter which company they hire now, the issues and solutions will be about the same. In fact, it's likely that the same people will be doing the work as the key contributors now get fired and hired by the new

  • Why not? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:40PM (#45919849)

    CGI has already received their $678 million dollars. Let's throw some more money at it to see if someone else can fix it now.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      CGI has already received their $678 million dollars.

      Right, how about the government sues CGI for $678+damages? That would free up some funds to pay the next contractor. Or is that too many "legal ramifications"?

      • by St.Creed (853824)

        CGI probably has documentation on a large number of pretty bad decisions by the officials involved, so I doubt they'd lose the case.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        Unless CGI did something blatantly illegal, they have the perfect "get out of jail free" card. If even one requirement changed, they have justification for additional charges on a fixed price contract. It's obvious that the requirements where changing up to the day of the roll out. But that only applies to fixed price contracts, which CGI wasn't on.

        I believe they where on "cost plus" contract, which means they are going to get off Scott Free, unless the government can prove they purposely lied about th

    • CGI has already received their $678 million dollars.

      For that money, the government could have bought half a Watson from IBM!

      Actually, I was thinking that healthcare.gov could have been crowd-sourced by a series of questions on Stackoverflow, and just cut and pasting the answers. It wouldn't have been any worse than what CGI produced.

      Obamacare says that my life is substandard, but I'd like to keep it anyway.

  • by Noishkel (3464121) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:42PM (#45919875)
    ... but I don't think firing everyone in charge of a massive project does a lot of good when it you're trying to make it work.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:49PM (#45919959) Homepage

      ... but I don't think firing everyone in charge of a massive project does a lot of good when it you're trying to make it work.

      No, but it gives the impression that you're Trying to Fix It.

      My question is "how much will change?" How much of this can be laid at the feet of the contractor, and how much was more of a symptom of the inability of the feds to handle the project? Because I've dealt with clients who essentially made a successful project impossible, and then groused when they didn't get a successful project (as if we could force them to do what was needed, but they ignored or failed to actually do).

      I don't always assume that just because they say "it was all their fault" that it was actually the case. Sometimes, it's people covering their own asses making the claim.

      Most especially where governments are concerned.

    • No, firing incompetent people in charge of a massive project is the right thing to do. The problem is, this particular project was doomed to fail, because of the scope and every pissant congress critter and political hack that had to add their $.02 worth.

      What is needed is "the duck", so that each idiot involved can have a say that doesn't really affect the end result.

      http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/07/new-programming-jargon.html [codinghorror.com] -- See #5

    • ... but I don't think firing everyone in charge of a massive project does a lot of good when it you're trying to make it work.

      Supposedly only the front end is implemented, the web site that citizens use. The backend, the part that coordinates the various federal agencies and insurance companies involved, does the billing, etc has not been implemented yet.

      If so it may not matter so much who implements the backend, the original contractor or the new.

    • If the product is terrible enough it is better to start from scratch than to try to fix it. From the stories I read the codebase for this is pretty terrible. http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/million-lines-of-code/ [informatio...utiful.net] According the chart there is more code "written" for HealthCare.gov than the entire mouse genome. So starting over makes sense.
  • First 6 posts are knee jerk reactions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:45PM (#45919901)

    It's not just the federal government (healthcare.gov) that's fucked this up; state exchanges (like Covered California, supposedly on the forefront of things, to say nothing of Oregon's health exchange, who, to put it kindly, isn't at the top of the heap) have also fucked this up.

    But it's not just the governments that have fucked this up. The private insurers [dailykos.com] have fucked this up beyond all recognition. Anthem's web-based payment system was unable to accept payments during the last week of December. Customers who signed up weeks before the deadline weren't billed until the new year [dailykos.com]. Multi-hour wait times for humans have resulted in Anthem's CA PR-bot being inundated with complaints. [twitter.com]

    You don't have insurance until you actually pay [kaiserhealthnews.org]. This is difficult when the insurance company itself refuses to accept payment.

    • You don't have insurance until you actually pay. This is difficult when the insurance company itself refuses to accept payment.

      In some cases it may still be the government's fault. If the government has not communicated to the insurance company what that person's subsidy is the insurance company would not know what to charge the person.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:21PM (#45920351)

      I tried New York's system and it kept insisting that I wasn't a real person. This was after I entered in personal information which, as the victim of identity theft, made me very uncomfortable entering into an online form (Social Security number, date of birth, etc) but that I rationalized was needed for this process. I did eventually get in, but via a roundabout way that involved signing up for an account with the DMV. Don't ask me what the DMV has to do with health care (beyond using the same login schema).

    • But it's not just the governments that have fucked this up. The private insurers [dailykos.com] have fucked this up beyond all recognition. Anthem's web-based payment system was unable to accept payments during the last week of December. Customers who signed up weeks before the deadline weren't billed until the new year [dailykos.com]. Multi-hour wait times for humans have resulted in Anthem's CA PR-bot being inundated with complaints. [twitter.com]

      Seriously? You're blaming private insurers for this?

  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:48PM (#45919951)
    Who cares if they get dismissed a few weeks before their contract expired. Do they still get paid for the steaming pile of shit they created? Absolutely. Will they continue to get government contracts after this blows over? Absolutely.

    This is a PR move.
    • by Mitreya (579078)

      Do they still get paid for the steaming pile of shit they created? Absolutely. Will they continue to get government contracts after this blows over? Absolutely. This is a PR move.

      It's not just a PR move.
      It is also an opportunity to pay half-a-billion to another contractor next. Before hiring a 3rd contractor to do the same.

  • I would really like to know. I get big, I get complex, interconnections between this API and that, but frankly people do that stuff every day. Building an aircraft carrier is pretty complex too and they might go over on costs etc, but the end result seems to work pretty well. How is that doable when software projects like this seem almost doomed to fail?
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Because people don't think modular. A complex system is easier than a simple system with multiple I/O to other incompletely defined systems.

      That, and they did it backwards. There should have been one portal per state. Whether the state or the feds built it doesn't matter. Then the fed one integrates the 50 states to give some generic information and direct signups to the state portal. If they had built 50 portals with a shared home page, they'd have done better. Then, the states that were working are
    • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:20PM (#45920331)
      From the congressional testimony, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/24/politics/congress-obamacare-website/ [cnn.com]:

      "In the first detailed account of what happened, officials of four contractors involved in the website creation described a convoluted system of multiple companies operating separately under the oversight of CMS, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Each said their individual components generally performed as planned after internal testing, but all conceded that CMS failed to conduct sufficient "end-to-end" testing of the entire system before the launch ... an end-to-end test conducted within two weeks of the launch caused the system to crash. She said it was up to CMS to decide on proceeding with the rollout."

      "... blamed a decision by CMS within two weeks of the launch to require users to fully register in order to browse for health insurance products, instead of being able to get information anonymously, as originally planned."

      The preceding should not be interpreted to mean that the contractor did good work. That may have been a problem as well. My point is that government officials were basically sabotaging their project through mismanagement. It appears that politicians were in control.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        "... blamed a decision by CMS within two weeks of the launch to require users to fully register in order to browse for health insurance products, instead of being able to get information anonymously, as originally planned."

        if this is hard, then they're assholes. that should practically be a checkbox.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          if this is hard, then they're assholes. that should practically be a checkbox.

          Oh? How do you figure?

          If you allow anonymous access to view, you can have that before you have registration implemented.

          If not, you have to have resolved all of the problems with registration before anybody can see anything.

          To me, the difference between "system provides some functionality anonymously to read documents" and "system requires a working registration/sign-in system in order to be able to read documents" is a hell of a

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            If you allow anonymous access to view, you can have that before you have registration implemented.

            The site is worthless without registration, because all the information is on what you're registering for. The primary purpose of the site is registration.

            To me, the difference between "system provides some functionality anonymously to read documents" and "system requires a working registration/sign-in system in order to be able to read documents" is a hell of a lot more than 'practically a checkbox' -- not unless your checkboxes come with stuff which magically generates the entire registration system.

            Like I said, the primary purpose of the system is registration, which means they need the registration system in place anyway, and if they don't have it there then they're assholes. QED.

      • The size of the codebase is so large that each component is a buggy untested mess. There is no way for anyone involved to say they tested that much code in that timerame. They all a bunch of liers.
    • by bussdriver (620565) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:35PM (#45920499)

      From what I've heard and read over the years, off the top of my head:

      1) Software has more complexity than most everything else; big systems more so. Software can change faster and expectations change faster; it's not a machine that is going to be used for decades and needs to remain similar over that time for maintenance reasons.

      2) 2 year cycles where political changes result in different pressures, demands, etc. I've heard this is a BIG problem with government projects from multiple sources. A lot of the time that new "oversight" is anything but a smokescreen for an agenda... sometimes it is intentionally to derail the process (for example, to make room to add another contractor.)

      3) Moving targets! Specifications are not detailed enough and/or they change during development - especially across the 2 year political cycles. These regulations they pass can take a year just to be legally codified into enough detail to be useful and even then implementing it in software involves lawyers and additional decisions / interpretations in order to implement it. Then you have the legal cases which decide things that cause changes as well...

      4) Short deadlines, high demands. This was a 5 year project and they had about 2-3 years of time and charged more money but throwing money at development doesn't speed it up with the same level quality as normal project pacing.

      5) Consultants are paid by TIME not success. Ask anything you want, they'll say yes and just bill more hours. Failure just means more hours and successful completion is not a big motivation.

      6) The more contractors who have to work together the more troubles are created.

      7) The more governments and gov departments, the more hurdles you have. Like contractors but worse; especially, if those governments are not cooperative, competent, or responsive. Many state governments and politicians have been trying to harm this project.

      8) Contracts, renewals, punishments are purely political, NOT results oriented. Failure only delays you until the next contract you bribe your way into - if you even end up fired at all. This company was probably #1 in getting contracts and not in their services provided; they'll get plenty of future contracts and probably do nothing to improve the quality of their services... as they likely did in the past. The entire political process is a huge target for attack by contractors; it's best to do it in house than contract to sufficiently large contractors who can manipulate the process.

      9) Metrics. Measurements of success or failure are purely political. Even with contractual metrics specified upfront, politics trumps all reason or law. Specific goals can be met but general ones can be grandstanded -- or design flaws that were approved or demanded can be shifted from the actual culprits to the contractors.

      10) Lawyers. Involved all over. If not the root of all evil, they are right afterwards. Don't award corp X the contract, get sued by corp X. Fire corp Y for failure to deliver, get sued by corp Y or the gov sues corp Y... Need a decision to move forward with some implementation detail? must run it by the lawyers 1st... that could end up in legal battles with multiple parties before being resolved and I'm not saying these legal battles all take place in court.

  • by shuz (706678) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:59PM (#45920085) Homepage Journal

    In a company of 280,000+ employees, Accenture has the capacity and expertise to make the IT side of the government healthcare offerings work. My two biggest fears are both money related. One that the amount of money allocated to fix and maintain will be less than what is needed to do a sufficient job or that the money allocated will put into place less human assets of the correct expertise. Second that the correct expertise and money are both available, but that Accenture might direct more funds to profit while short changing the project with substandard expertise. If neither of these issues occur, then I expect this change could have positive impact. Throwing either new monies, or new management into the existing mix alone could have a negative impact. The right smart people, at all levels, need to be there, and care.

  • WTF they writing stuff in CGI at this point anyways? /sarc

    • CGI stands for "Common Gateway Interface." It's not a programming language. Many web services are or at least can be run using this interface, such as PHP. While its true native webserver modules offer better performance, if you have a reason to write a webpage using C the like you'll most likely need to use CGI to do it.

      In the future, when you go for the "funneh", try to know what you are talking about.

  • by CyberLeader (106732) on Friday January 10, 2014 @04:29PM (#45920423) Homepage

    When you're tired of screwing it up like amateurs, bring in Accenture so you can screw it up like professionals!

    My firm has made a lot of money cleaning up Accenture's disasters. It's a living.

    So while Accenture was originally based in Bermuda, they've since moved their corporate HQ to Ireland. Could we at least pick a vendor incorporated in the U.S.?

  • My experience is that CGI usually does a better job. This should be a mess!

    The only hope (that someone already identified) is where they pick up all the CGI people working on the project already.

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