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White House Reportedly Dismissing Key Contractor 284

Nerval's Lobster writes "Months after a problem-riddled rollout of the 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, 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 Contractor

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:45PM (#45919901)

    It's not just the federal government ( 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 [] 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 []. Multi-hour wait times for humans have resulted in Anthem's CA PR-bot being inundated with complaints. []

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

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

    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).

  • 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.

  • 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:4, Interesting)

    by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @05:03PM (#45920811) Journal

    I think there is a disconnect between price and quality.

    When a CFO see's that he can pay and admin $24,000 vs $85,000 he thinks wow the we have been getting screwed!

    I've never seen quality work out of $24,000 admins or hardly any work for that matter; seems to be a constant churning with these companies as well.

    Really brings the whole quality of the industry down; The C's start to think that's just the way it is as well as the Mids, obviously not that way in reality.

    You know if they had common sense they would write in these contracts that they will refund all the money paid for the contract plus a 25% restocking fee if they get fired before the end of the contract. If they refuse to those terms, that's really telling in the sense that they know that they will fail!

    I am guessing most of the time they count on under bidding the contract and then charging add on's out the nose to their clients, seems like a total scam to me.

    I had 3 headhunters call me in the past 4 months for senior level and management level positions. One was $10/hr and I would be driving with no fuel re-embursment to branch offices, the other were $15/hr with no benefits or roughly $29,000 a year! They were not even junior jobs either. WTF.

    I turned them all down and one was angry and told me IT is not worth that much after I told him what I made on my last contract. The recession has changed people's mindsets as IT is like janitor or plumber work which anyone can do and is sooo easy and just not important. Sadly there are sobs whose unemployment has just run out who took these jobs. This then re-enforces the concept that IT work are like plumbers and other non skilled professions and more money needs to go elsehwere etc.

  • Re:Accenture? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by msmonroe ( 2511262 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @05:56PM (#45921445)
    Yeah sounds right for here as well, but there is a lot of competition and you probably get most jobs through word of mouth.
    Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? Basically if we apply it to the Plummbers 20% are making 80% of the money or $60 dollars an hour. Good to be in that 20% but if your in that 80% not as good; your probably working a lot of construction jobs to feed your family.
  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:18PM (#45921649) Journal

    Holy fucking shit we're fucked

    Moving from the original contractor (Michelle Obama's university buddy - cronyism) to Accenture is like moving the project from a bumbling idiot to the mafia

    But that's not the point either.


  • 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.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson