The troubled launch of the U.S. federal government's healthcare information exchange is a high-profile example of outsourced IT gone wrong. The $400 million project, which was supposed to be a one-stop online shop for Americans seeking health insurance, made headlines for its bugs and glitches.
The initiative was endorsed by the highest executive in the world, had plenty of lead time, and had a relatively straightforward mandate. But, as a recent New York Times article pointed out, deadline after deadline was missed on the multi-contractor project for a variety of reasons -- from government agencies slow to issue their specifications to last minute changes to the Healthcare.gov's primary features.
[ Also on InfoWorld: How federal cronies built -- and botched -- Healthcare.gov. | Also: Ailing Obamacare site to get a 'tech surge'. | For quick, smart takes on the news you'll be talking about, check out InfoWorld TechBrief -- subscribe today. | Read Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog for what the key business trends mean to you. ]
It's not surprising that the project was problematic, says Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of outsourcing consultancy and research firm Everest Group. "When you make such a huge change all at once and you're trying to implement systems and processes for the first time, the unintended consequences that cascade are enormous," Bendor-Samuel says. "We see this all the time in business, albeit on a smaller scale. The only surprise to me is that it worked at all."
"It's important to keep in mind the experience of the user when designing systems like Healthcare.gov. A big takeaway is to try to simplify processes and keep in mind the user's experience . Healthcare is complex enough, why do these guys need to add more complexity?" -- Adam Luciano, principal analyst with sourcing analyst firm HfS Research.
The rocky start, however, serves as a reminder of several steps any IT outsourcing customer should take to ensure a smooth rollout.
1. Conduct robust capacity planning. "Start by gathering feedback from subject matter experts and key stakeholders across all teams to design a solution with the capacity for planned usage profiles as well as the elasticity to meet unexpected levels of demand," advises Craig Wright, principal with outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon.
"Ensure that outsourcing agreements include meaningful expectations around agile service delivery performance structures and relevant provisions to hold service providers responsible for quickly responding to changing needs, aggregating their services into an ecosystem-wide, seamless, end-to-end service experience for users," Wright says