It was a frustrating situation for Americans. Healthcare.gov, the site launched in early October that was supposed to ease, educate and transition America into shopping for insurance plans. Good in theory. In application, a harshly criticized website burdened with bugs, errors and delays.
Users were quick to take to social media sharing stories. The media dug its heels into the site and explored everything from its blank drop-down menus to its “Your Account Cannot Be Created At This Time” messages. The site was thus dubbed a failure.
President Barack Obama pledged to ‘stamp out the gremlins’ plaguing his administration’s signature healthcare overhaul. Publicly, the President stated:
“Nobody is madder than me about the website not working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.”
Healthcare.gov was more than the website that sparked a standing-room-only Congressional hearing. It was an example of how things can go very wrong, very fast, when the proper care to IT project planning is not demonstrated.
Stepping back and looking at Healthcare.gov and its myriad of technical glitches, what Healthcare.gov lessons about IT project management can businesses learn?
From selecting a proper IT vendor to ensuring usability principles are guiding the way, Healthcare.gov is a cautionary tale and a reminder of the importance of superior IT project management.
Healthcare.gov Lessons Learned
Lesson 1: Select Your IT Vendor…Wisely
When selecting an IT vendor, research their performance stringently. Do due diligence, ask questions. Outstanding IT vendors will demonstrate leadership abilities and a rock solid track record.
Don’t be impressed by tech babble – be impressed if the IT vendor is asking questions to gain an understanding of the needs of your business and the expectations and requirements of your project.
Ask about certifications. Grill them on successes in comparable projects. Demand references and investigate the ones provided. There are exceptional IT companies out there – find them.
Lesson 2: Trust Your IT Project Champion
An IT project champion is the hero that ensures project management is seamless from start to finish – regardless of the size and scope of a project.
IT project champions oversee everything from requirement evaluations to stakeholder communications, prioritizing project phases, allocating resources and diligently maintaining an accurate project scope. An IT project champion should be someone with the technical expertise to understand all elements of a project, including best practices for everything from custom software development to Web design.
If a project is going to succeed – whether the project is a website design for a local bakery or a massive undertaking for say, Uncle Sam – a trusted IT project champion with exceptional IT consulting experience makes all the difference.
Lesson 3: Usability Awareness
Each IT project – whether software development or responsive Web design – brings its own set of requirements and most times these requirement are quite complex. The goal is always to ensure that projects are delivered on time and that they meet and exceed customer expectations.
This is an intentional process, to define, determine and develop software and Web applications that are graphically beautiful and robust with functionality. This intentional process is very much a hallmark of how effective, efficient IT companies operate – usability principles.
The process of building a new software system or new website can seem daunting for any business, especially if they have never attempted to do so previously. That is why usability principles must be in place to ensure deliverables, such as websites, use simple language, boast easy to identify and understand main functions and receive proactive feedback.
Websites should be consistent in appearance and behavior, allowing users to quickly and easily accomplish their goals, with minimal effort and minimal clicks. The user experience is extremely critical – keeping things simple is paramount.
Whether it’s a standard website or a full-blown application with back-end portals – the user experience on the system should always be seamless, convenient and successful.
When launching a new IT project – website design, custom software solution, mobile app campaign or even the adoption of cloud technologies – make sure your IT vendor is selected with scrutiny and care.
The winning IT vendor should be one laced with exceptional IT project champions well versed in the business technologies vital to ensuring a successful project implementation.
Lastly, the IT vendor and IT project champion should consistently uphold respect for the user experience, delivering a system, solution or website that is not only robust with functionality, analytics and resources – but one that is easy for people to understand, navigate and optimize.
Headache Photo via Shutterstock
When dealing with websites especially if it is going to get lots of visits, you should always carefully select your IT vendor. I also agree with the usability awareness. The website should be tested for bugs before it is released to the public.
It’s amazing to me that the Healthcare.gov site was that problematic. I’m surprised by that. But, yes, if anything can be learnt from it, it’s those you’ve shared. Whoever’s responsible for assigning the task of creating that site obviously didn’t do their research in ensuring the right team for the job got it.