The Obamacare (Healthcare.gov) website went live a couple of weeks ago with a number of technical issues. Of course, I am sure that the outcome would have been a lot rosier had the President read my book before embarking on the project.

However - now is not the time to dwell on what could have been done. Instead, I'd like to offer some advice to the President, to help him get the system up and running as soon as possible. Here goes...

"Dear Mr. President

Whilst there is a huge temptation to throw money and resources at a troubled IT system, I'd like to suggest an alternative approach as follows:

  1. The small core team who understand the Obamacare site will be well burnt out by now. Throwing strangers at the project, who need to be up-skilled by the original project team is only going to add to the stress. Inviting experts to come and tell you what is wrong is going to be a waste of money. You already know what is wrong - the site has performance, processing and business logic issues. Yes - you could throw more computing power at it, but the business logic issues would still be there and they take time to address. Please note that such tangly issues are best addressed in an atmosphere of calm and peace, by people who have a clear head and have enjoyed a good night's sleep. Place the core team in a safe and secure media-free area with an endless supply of pizza and beer and they will come through with a fully working solution. Give them plenty of time to make changes and test to the point that they are confident that the second roll out will be glitch free. Don't panic.
  2. Throw all the resources available into building a temporary system, that will eventually feed nicely into the core system. The temporary solution can be quite simple - for now you only need to register interest and set people up with a user name and password so that they can get back into the system once you are ready to take full details. Make it sexy, informative and interesting, and make it available through a responsive design that will enable it to display on any and all devices. Get one of your ancient, well respected and, maybe a little zany, citizens to advertise it, and to demonstrate, with a little humour, how idiot proof it is.
  3. By the end of November, you need to make a decision based on the state of the original system, so that you are ready for insurance plans to start in January. If your core system isn't working, I'd suggest enrolling everybody in one of three vanilla plans that can be offered through your temporary solution, and add the refinement of tailored plans once your full site is ready.

Hope that's helpful, Sir.

Yours respectfully

Alison Holt"

About the author

An expert in corporate governance of IT and sustainability management, Alison Holt led a group that identified market needs, assessed academic research and delivered relevant international standards. She has worked internationally in a variety of roles from systems analyst through CIO to IT director and is author of Governance of IT.

In this video, Alison talks more about IT governance, the value of IT and why we need to care about it