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Healthcare.gov may be a 'black swan'
Computerworld.com ^ | 10/25/2013 | Patrick Thibodeau

Posted on 10/25/2013 3:43:13 PM PDT by Ramius

One in six IT projects face out of control costs, and bring much disruption, making them 'black swans'

WASHINGTON - Despite partisan sniping over the Affordable Care Act, members of a U.S. House committee probing the problems at Healthcare.gov Thursday asked some tough, IT-specific questions that revealed some key facts.

Two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), were especially focused on the testing process for the ACA website that's had problems since its launch on Oct. 1.

It turns out that project's 55 contractors had only two weeks to conduct end-to-end testing of Healthcare.gov prior to launch.

"What's the recommended industry standard for end-to-end testing," asked Walden.

"Months would be nice," said Andrew Slavitt, executive vice president of Optum, one of the contractors that built the site. Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal and a witness, perhaps the largest contractor on the project, agreed with Slavitt.

The contractors for the site all said they performed their part of the project as required while making it clear that they weren't responsible for the overall outcome of Healthcare.gov.

None could say, with any certainty, when the website will perform as designed. There was no one from the federal government to explain the project's IT decision-making, though federal officials are expected to testify as early as next week.

The problems at Healthcare.gov may qualify as a black swan event, something that's difficult to predict and is disruptive. A black swan event in Mother Nature might include a solar geomagnetic storm that knocks out sensitive electronics and power grids. In IT, a black swan event is a project with out-of-control costs, and consequences so severe that it may cause a company to fail.

(Excerpt) Read more at computerworld.com ...


TOPICS: News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: obamacare
I'm not sure it's technically a Black Swan... Inasmuch as they're supposed to be difficult to predict in advance. With over 50 contractors and a design by committee, I think you don't have to be Nostradamus to have seen this train wreck coming.
1 posted on 10/25/2013 3:43:13 PM PDT by Ramius
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To: Ramius
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system. --Gall's Law
2 posted on 10/25/2013 3:44:38 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Who knew that one day professional wrestling would be less fake than professional journalism?)
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To: Ramius

The comments are interesting. It lasts a whole six or seven posts before it devolves into partisan bickering.


3 posted on 10/25/2013 3:45:08 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: Ramius
The only bird who couldn't have seen it coming was this one...
4 posted on 10/25/2013 3:45:31 PM PDT by JediJones (The #1 Must-see Filibuster of the Year: TEXAS TED AND THE CONSERVATIVE CRUZ-ADE)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Yep. Make it work on index cards first. If an analog system can’t be made to work... The digital version will just find failure quicker.


5 posted on 10/25/2013 3:48:02 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: Ramius

6 posted on 10/25/2013 3:49:35 PM PDT by JoeProBono (SOME IMAGES MAY BE DISTURBING VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED;-{)
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To: Ramius
The Medicare site has been up for years. They could have piggy-backed onto it.

But narcissists believe that anything that came before them is inferior and something they build from scratch will be so much better, because they did it.

7 posted on 10/25/2013 3:50:28 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Who knew that one day professional wrestling would be less fake than professional journalism?)
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To: Ramius

It was suggested on another thread that this might have been a “death march” project. I had never heard the term, but once I realized what it was, I realized that I had worked on one of them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_march_%28project_management%29


8 posted on 10/25/2013 3:51:11 PM PDT by Fresh Wind (The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.)
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To: Ramius
I know this is just totally out of the box thinking, but aren't there hundreds of thousands, if not a million insurance salespeople across the country? Aren't there company websites that sell insurance each and every day?

Why on earth would they need to make their own website to duplicate the sale of insurance by private insurers to the public? Can't you get your ‘ObamaCare’ compliant policy directly from the insurer and save yourself weeks of headache?

9 posted on 10/25/2013 3:52:36 PM PDT by kingu (Everything starts with slashing the size and scope of the federal government.)
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To: Fresh Wind; ecurbh

Oh yes. I’m intimately familiar with the “Death March” concept. I was an IT Director in a former life. This was absolutely one of those. It never had a chance of working... from the very first project meeting onward.


10 posted on 10/25/2013 3:56:13 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: kingu

I think you can only get a subsidy if you go through the exchange.


11 posted on 10/25/2013 4:00:26 PM PDT by MissMagnolia (You see, truth always resides wherever brave men still have ammunition. I pick truth. (John Ransom))
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To: Fresh Wind
It was suggested on another thread that this might have been a “death march” project. I had never heard the term, but once I realized what it was, I realized that I had worked on one of them.

I have been through a few myself.

They all end the same way.

At what stage is ObamaCare?

The Six Phases Of Big Projects

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Panic and hysteria
  4. Search for the guilty
  5. Punishment of the innocent
  6. Praise and honor for the nonparticipants


12 posted on 10/25/2013 4:03:18 PM PDT by Iron Munro (When a killer screams 'Allahu Akbar' you don't need to be mystified about a motive.)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

I work at a major hospital and use CMS and Medicaid systems. I love Medicaid system, pretty slick. CMS is behind on modern times like sending our official letters, payment notices, audit and Cost Reporting letters, etc via snail mail. Medicaid on the other hand, sends all communications via secure file transfer and we an send our files to them, etc.

I wondered why they didn’t use an already built government system for the healthcare.gov website.

But hey, I am sure those programmers know what they are doing, after all they got a 600M contract to build it...so the sheeple would come...snark.


13 posted on 10/25/2013 4:05:49 PM PDT by Engedi
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To: kingu

Or maybe they could have Amazon sell insurance (sarcasm)


14 posted on 10/25/2013 4:06:54 PM PDT by grania
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To: kingu

Lanny Davis was Hannity yesterday. Even he said this should have been built around existing private sector insurers and providers.

BUT that this administration does not trust the private sector.

There were a lot of ways around government takeover of 19% of the economy but they wanted to rid it of the private sector. Thereby eliminating competition which would have driven costs down.


15 posted on 10/25/2013 4:09:40 PM PDT by BunnySlippers (I LOVE BULL MARKETS . . .)
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To: Ramius

16 posted on 10/25/2013 4:11:22 PM PDT by bkopto (Obama and Biden are merely symptoms of a more profound, systemic disease in American body politic.)
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To: Ramius

I think dead duck might be the better analogy


17 posted on 10/25/2013 4:12:29 PM PDT by Nifster
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To: bkopto

Does he look like Alfred e Neumann from the back?


18 posted on 10/25/2013 4:13:17 PM PDT by morphing libertarian
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To: Ramius

Contractors describing the web site

19 posted on 10/25/2013 4:14:47 PM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... Travon... Felony assault and battery hate crime)
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To: morphing libertarian
Does he look like Alfred e Neumann from the back?

"What? Me worry?" :-)

20 posted on 10/25/2013 4:15:07 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: Ramius

The lyrics to this song seem perfect.

Thom Yorke - Black Swan (Language)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJhmKF4npMs


21 posted on 10/25/2013 4:16:55 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: kingu
Why on earth would they need to make their own website to duplicate the sale of insurance by private insurers to the public?

Because, then, the government can't control the process -- the subsidies, in particular.

Moreover, the bulk on the enrollment via the federal websites to date have been in Medicaid -- which doesn't involve the insurance companies.

In other words, there'd be no "free stuff"...

22 posted on 10/25/2013 4:19:15 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: Ignorance On Parade)
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To: Engedi

I wondered why they didn’t use an already built government system for the healthcare.gov website.


They could have used a copy of the IRS online filing system, renamed the DBs and calls, and had it done in 6 months for maybe 20 million bucks.


23 posted on 10/25/2013 4:20:14 PM PDT by txhurl ('The DOG ate my homework. That homework, too. ALL my homework. OK?' - POSHITUS)
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To: Ramius

I think it must more correctly be called “Black Satan”.


24 posted on 10/25/2013 4:24:51 PM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/nicolae-hussein-obama/)
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To: Ramius

What the hell is a ‘black swan?”
Never mind. I looked it up.

“The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.”

Don’t use words that I don’t understand.


25 posted on 10/25/2013 4:26:16 PM PDT by I want the USA back (Media: completely irresponsible traitors. Complicit in the destruction of our country.)
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To: Ramius
The problems at Healthcare.gov may qualify as a black swan event, something that's difficult to predict and is disruptive.

some more rules about systems from John Gall:

1) Primal scenario of government systems based on basic data of experience: government systems in general work poorly or not at all, because no large complicated or complex systems ever work properly.
2) Fundamental theorem of government systems: new systems generate new problems and therefore systems should not be unnecessarily multiplied
3) Law of growth: government systems tend to grow, and as they grow, they encroach and oppress.
4) generalized uncertainty principle: large complex systems produce unexpected outcomes and the total behavior of large systems cannot be predicted
5) Le Chatelier's principle: complex systems tend to oppose their own proper function
6) The operational fallacy: the system itself does not do what it says it is doing
7) laws of function:
7a) a complex system cannot be made to work. It either works or it doesn't
7b) Pushing on the system doesn't help.It must makes things worse
8) failure mode theorems:
8a) complex government systems usually operate in failure mode
8b) a complex government system can fail in an infinite number of ways
8c) the mode of failure or a complex system cannot ordinarily be predicted from its structure
8d) the larger the system, the greater the probability of unexpected failure

26 posted on 10/25/2013 4:39:21 PM PDT by mjp ((pro-{God, reality, reason, egoism, individualism, natural rights, limited government, capitalism}))
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To: Ramius

I think they’re pushing on a rope here.


27 posted on 10/25/2013 4:51:42 PM PDT by Lurkina.n.Learnin (If global warming exists I hope it is strong enough to reverse the Big Government snowball)
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To: bkopto

LOL!

Baghdad Bob and Obama are one and the same.


28 posted on 10/25/2013 5:06:31 PM PDT by july4thfreedomfoundation (The Second Amendment makes all the other amendments possible)
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To: Ramius

You program a bad process you get a automated bad process.


29 posted on 10/25/2013 5:13:34 PM PDT by HarleyD (...one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.)
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To: Ramius

I have worked in IT for over 20 years and I can tell you, based on how this was set up, with the timelines, and the people/groups involved, that this was a totally predictable outcome.


30 posted on 10/25/2013 5:14:14 PM PDT by WMarshal (Free citizen, never a subject or a civilian)
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To: Ramius

We all saw the train wreck coming...

But the Black Swan event maybe the consequences of the train wreck. It could go extreme in a number of ways... From full on socialism and a permanent death spiral to a major rejection of government and a return to sanity.


31 posted on 10/25/2013 5:19:54 PM PDT by DB
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To: Ramius

It’s a dirty bird, that’s for sure.


32 posted on 10/25/2013 5:22:03 PM PDT by TADSLOS (The Event Horizon has come and gone. Buckle up and hang on.)
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To: WMarshal

Yep... Then you know. There are those projects that, in the very first requirements meeting with the client, that creepy feeling comes up your spine and you know way, way in advance that disaster is looming.


33 posted on 10/25/2013 5:23:54 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: kingu
I know this is just totally out of the box thinking, but aren't there hundreds of thousands, if not a million insurance salespeople across the country?

Yes...and they are all licensed by their state...involving a comprehensive 3 hour exam on all aspects of insurance, ethics and a background check.....every piece of mail, phone contacts and adverts has to be prior approved by their office manager....also follow up exams every year....

Obamacare Navigators get none of this...

Spokeshave who was a former insurance agent.

34 posted on 10/25/2013 5:25:50 PM PDT by spokeshave (While Zero plays silly card games like Spades - Putin plays for keeps.)
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To: Ramius

Black swan? Isn’t that racis’?


35 posted on 10/25/2013 5:28:38 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Let me hear what God the LORD will speak. -Ps85)
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To: kingu

Why on earth would they need to make their own website to duplicate the sale of insurance by private insurers to the public? Can’t you get your ‘ObamaCare’ compliant policy directly from the insurer and save yourself weeks of headache?


Because they couldn’t data mine those sites to get the info they needed for their push on 2014 elections.


36 posted on 10/25/2013 5:28:51 PM PDT by patriotspride
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To: WMarshal

I have worked in IT for over 20 years and I can tell you, based on how this was set up, with the timelines, and the people/groups involved, that this was a totally predictable outcome.


And I bet you didn’t earn 600 million over that time period for delivering a faulty product. :):):)


37 posted on 10/25/2013 5:31:52 PM PDT by patriotspride
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To: Iron Munro

Observed behavior is nonlinear; I suggest a different model: chaos.


38 posted on 10/25/2013 5:41:05 PM PDT by kitchen (Even the walls have ears.)
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To: Ramius

I’m no IT guy but have been involved enough in system installs, upgrades and replacements, both successful and less than ideal, to know that starting at the end with desired outputs and working back to front from there, going through every input and touchpoint to the beginning of a process works far better than believing anything anyone says about how a system will perform on the front end as a result of assumptions based upon capabilities. Run your flowchart backwards and never assume a thing will work unless field tested or simulated based upon actual data and conditions.

They didn’t know what their inputs or their outputs would be, sounds like. Couldn’t even plan for capacity on the website despite knowing that there would be a heavy volume initially. I can’t escape concluding that it was never intended to function as billed. It paid off cronies with hundreds of millions. It inflicts pain and demand for a better solution, which of course always involves more government to government bureaucrats. Single payer.


39 posted on 10/25/2013 5:41:48 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Ramius

Ping


40 posted on 10/25/2013 5:46:16 PM PDT by CriticalJ (Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.. But then I repeat myself. MT)
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To: I want the USA back

Larry David killed one when he was Golfing on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Must have been the beginning for his love of Obama.


41 posted on 10/25/2013 5:50:08 PM PDT by Kickass Conservative (Good news, Federal Funding for my Tagline has been restored. Crisis averted.)
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To: Iron Munro

I would love to see the gantt chart for this project. Whoever was responsible for managing this fiasco had to be aware that there was no way in he** that this would fly.

I loved Sebelius’s comment that she had ‘Hoped’ that the rollout would be successful.

Rule #1 in IT: If you are ‘Hoping’ that a software rollout will be successful, then you are already screwed.


42 posted on 10/25/2013 5:59:48 PM PDT by Delta Dawn (Fluent in two languages: English and cursive.)
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To: Ramius

Black swan? Das racess ain’t it?


43 posted on 10/25/2013 6:06:10 PM PDT by catnipman (Cat Nipman: Vote Republican in 2012 and only be called racist one more time!)
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To: CriticalJ

Heh. One ping. Spasibo.


44 posted on 10/25/2013 6:09:53 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: dfwgator
100%!!!
45 posted on 10/25/2013 9:34:15 PM PDT by Chode (Stand UP and Be Counted, or line up and be numbered - *DTOM* -vvv- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: Ramius
Black FAG is more like it...

46 posted on 10/25/2013 9:37:33 PM PDT by Chode (Stand UP and Be Counted, or line up and be numbered - *DTOM* -vvv- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: kingu

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 12:03:49 PM · 46 of 46
jpsb to PA-RIVER

I was thinking something very similar. Auto insurance, fill out a form and then check your email. Insurer that what your business will respond to the email address you left. Simple and effective. Now, the back end that allows insures to check you eligibility would still have to be built, but that would not be to difficult to build. I could bring in such a system for way less the 640 million. lol.


47 posted on 10/25/2013 11:05:06 PM PDT by jpsb (Believe nothing until it has been officially denied)
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To: Delta Dawn
"I would love to see the gantt chart for this project.

I spent six very hard weeks telling the president of my (start up) company "No way" when she showed me the gantt chart of the project she wanted to build. We had a two hour meeting every day and she pounded me without mercy trying to get me to agree to build the monstrosity she wanted to build. Two hours every day, "No, No, No". Finally she gave up and said OK fine, do it your way. We were in production a year later with a very nice object management/configuration management system that is still in use today. Sadly maintenance was outsourced to India so it likely the project it on it's last legs. But we had a good 25 year run. Some times you just have to say No.

I took a personal hit, and she never really liked after that, but when something really needed to get done and no one else could figure out how to do it, she always turned to me. Lol, but as soon as I figured out a solution she gave the project to someone else. WTF!

If gov is reading this and interested in my services I am available. :)

48 posted on 10/25/2013 11:22:34 PM PDT by jpsb (Believe nothing until it has been officially denied)
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