Welcome!

Government Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Gopala Krishna Behara, Raju Myadam, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, Government Cloud, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal

Microservices Expo: Article

Lessons of the Healthcare.gov Fiasco

Contributed by Guest Author Steve Hawald, Executive Partner/Analyst

One of the advantages ZapThink brings to the discussion of Enterprise IT is our global perspective. As we travel the world, we hear the opinions of many people across many countries and industries. From this context we can confirm that most of the planet believes the US government is the laughingstock of the developed world. We finally resolve the shutdown of the government (at least temporarily) over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) only to find that the centerpiece of the ACA rollout - the Healthcare.gov Web site - suffered from severe flaws. Seriously, can't we get anything right?

The embarrassing failure of the ACA Web site is even more ironic considering the federal government's long history of expensive, "big bang" IT projects like the Navy Marine Corps Intranet and the FBI Sentinel case management system that time and again failed in spectacular fashion. We were supposed to have learned some important lessons from such fiascos. In fact, the Obama administration has made substantial progress turning over a new leaf in the rollout of large IT initiatives, focusing on more Agile, Service-Oriented, and Cloud-centric efforts that lower both risks and cost. Why, then, did the Web site at the center of Obama's centerpiece legislation fail so miserably, and how can we avoid such failures in the future?

Placing Healthcare.gov into Context
Compared to other high-profile, complex federal IT programs, the ACA healthcare exchange program may have racked up the most program missteps for leadership and management in today's IT world. On the other hand, other major government consolidation Web sites, such as USAJOBS and USAspending, have had significant IT problems as well. Revelations from key IT sources illustrate how immense the technology architecture and design problems are: missing or bad data, duplicate records, lack of audit controls, insufficient testing, and inadequate Cybersecurity controls, to name a few.

According to Aneesh Chopra, the first US Chief Technology Officer, the site's problems were due to heavy traffic. It was built for 60,000 concurrent users - an estimate based on the Medicare.gov site of 30,000 daily users. However, Healthcare.gov had to support one million simultaneous users out of the gate. Also, the former CTO points to a minor Private Cloud scalability issue and a few additional IT missteps.

And yet, many insurance and technology leaders, analysts, Web developers, and contractors have pointed out serious IT methodology, architecture design and security flaws with the Healthcare.gov Web site as long ago as early 2012. These central IT challenges focus on leadership, management, architecture, cost management, IT workforce issues, and stakeholder decisions and roles.

This IT program appears to have fallen apart due to a number of requirement changes within two weeks of product launch from the administration. Such last minute changes introduce substantial risks into any IT project. All critical production systems should ideally have hard lead times and freeze dates, in conjunction with an iterative, Agile methodology for such changes to be successful. For example, the IRS has a similar IT playbook for new tax laws every year as many commercial firms do.

How to Fix Healthcare.gov
The number of critical technology areas that have been failing and the risk of skipping full operational and Cybersecurity testing and review place this application at high risk. The exchange portal needs an IT rescue or reset, which would involve taking the site down for application overhaul.

It may require as many as 5 million lines of software code to be ripped out and replaced to avoid inaccurate enrollment data and improper payments for services, mitigating further costly recovery. It should also have a full architecture review and be retested for data quality with key stakeholders, security for accessing other federal databases, as well as security for citizen privacy and data protection from hackers for identity fraud and misuse.

Key IT takeaways on this effort for any organization, federal or private, include:

  • Executive teams should be flexible on critical product rollout dates and execute strong leadership using governance for accountability and transparency over requirement changes and risks to avoid program chaos on cost, schedule, Cybersecurity, quality, and usability.
  • Executive leadership must have common product communication messaging on the purpose and value to all levels of the organization, stakeholders, and customers for accepting the product with confidence and trust.
  • EA teams should have crafted an Agile Enterprise Architecture using a Cloud roadmap for driving the business needs today, as well as future requirements for improving customer satisfaction and usability.
  • Executive and IT leadership decisions to insource complex integration architecture must be evaluated with the right team level of skill mix, training and resources, and leadership must be willing to outsource resources for any skill gaps.
  • Procurement teams should use trusted partnerships with core domain, Agile Architecture, and project management (PM) skills as well as corporate or government-wide multiple award contracts with task orders for critical skills by best of breed contractors with key domain experience for Agile software development.
  • Agile IT PM teams should have a standard or tailored software development lifecycle including a prototype phase for proof of concept with field ops for network stress on the architecture and security testing using incremental releases for production.
  • IT PM teams should have leveraged key stakeholder sign-offs, domain tailored best practices, customers/users/advocacy testing groups, or other testing offerings to validate a new product.

Using a Web-based portal solution for a healthcare gateway to existing federal agencies' databases and insurance interfaces for data sets with unpredictable scalability requirements are common IT challenges in today's market that newer technologies, in particular, Cloud Computing, can address. On Healthcare.gov, the key executive strategy teams lacked the technical skills and the proper executive governance framework for oversight on the program's execution effort. A delivery mandate, regardless of the end state of the product and "deliver as is" wording, puts the citizens or other users in a dysfunctional IT service environment, which creates lack of trust and confidence in the healthcare portal going forward.

If we compared this project rollout with any large private sector organization rollout, it would have been shut down immediately to mitigate the unknown costs and risks, the damage to the brand and reputation of the organization, and the leaders who are accountable would have taken appropriate management actions. In fact, it should not have led to a rollout date using a "big bang" deployment in the first place.

The ZapThink Take
The Administration's 2012 OMB policy dictates the use of Agile software modular development using incremental releases to avoid the long delays for customer phase-in for smaller deployments (30 to 180 days), and early use of features and benefits to reduce risk from poor requirements, untested technology, software failures, and cost overruns. However, by all accounts, Healthcare.gov was executed as a waterfall project, an approach that almost always leads to failure - either by insufficiently delivering on requirements or by providing inadequate focus on quality. And sure enough, these are just the problems that Healthcare.gov faced.

Why, then, did the government and its contractors not follow a best practice Agile approach? Fundamentally, Agile requires a rethink of the organizational aspects of planning, delivering, testing, and managing any IT project. The entire effort must be tackled iteratively. Stakeholders should be involved at every step. Testing must take place in every iteration, in order to lessen the testing burden as the initiative approaches delivery.

For larger initiatives like Healthcare.gov, the architecture must be Agile as well - both the software architecture as well as the broader Enterprise Architecture. However, the principles for Agile Architecture are only now being fleshed out, as ZapThink explains in Jason Bloomberg's book, The Agile Architecture Revolution. As the word revolution would indicate, no band-aid fix will magically turn big-bang software fiascos into lightweight, Agile, customer-focused initiatives. Instead, we must entirely rethink how we go about software delivery to meet the IT challenges of the 21st century. There is simply no excuse for high risk waterfall initiatives any more, at the federal government or anywhere else.

Guest Author: Steve Hawald, Executive Partner/Analyst

Prior to founding HAWALD ADVISORY, LLC in 2013, Mr. Hawald was a former Gartner global IT research analyst, US Department of Education / SFA CIO, and United HealthCare HMO Divisional CIO. He was named to Hitachi's Federal Data Systems advisory board in early 2010, and was appointed to Georgetown University's CCPE adjunct faculty for graduate IT certificate programs in 2009. He teaches part-time on weekends at the DC campus with his advisory engagements. He currently attends Virginia Tech University for STS PhD studies in risk challenges and management.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
"We view the cloud not as a specific technology but as a way of doing business and that way of doing business is transforming the way software, infrastructure and services are being delivered to business," explained Matthew Rosen, CEO and Director at Fusion, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), held June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
We are seeing a major migration of enterprises applications to the cloud. As cloud and business use of real time applications accelerate, legacy networks are no longer able to architecturally support cloud adoption and deliver the performance and security required by highly distributed enterprises. These outdated solutions have become more costly and complicated to implement, install, manage, and maintain.SD-WAN offers unlimited capabilities for accessing the benefits of the cloud and Internet. ...
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...