HealthCare.gov Proves Software Delivery Needs Modernizing - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture
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12/11/2013
09:06 AM
Dave West
Dave West
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HealthCare.gov Proves Software Delivery Needs Modernizing

Modern software development involves a mind-boggling number of moving parts. HealthCare.gov proves we've got to get back to basic project management.

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dave_west
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dave_west,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 3:12:15 PM
Re: Not Again- Another Widget for the Power Point
I wonder if the existing methods are actually able to deal with the complexity that modern software has become. They all focus on control, and managing risk by artifact creation and evaluation. Frankly software is so complex and distributed it is almost impossible to get the right people on a call to review a document that describes the problem let alone the solution. I think we need to start thinking about software as an ecosystem. One that we no longer control, but instead survive. That means that we need to organize projects not around skills, but around bits of the ecosystem and then connect their processes into one integrated ALM process. 

Anyway great debate and I look forward to more... Oh and I will publish part two of this next week which should include more ideas on what we can do.. 
TravisPearl
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TravisPearl,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2013 | 11:11:42 AM
All government IT/software projects should not be created equal
Great article Dave.  We've been keeping at close eye on the healthcare.gov project at Onvia as it has lasting implications for government contractors in IT.  

I think your view has a lot of merit, applying time tested software development processes with multiple cycles of QA is critical for launching large complex projects.  There has been a movement over the last several years to reduce QA departments and cycle times in QA in an effort to move faster by dialing up the risk level.  The movement is well intentioned, many software companies have been able to ship faster and iterate more quickly by reducing time spent in QA (functional testing, integration testing, etc).

I believe software project managers today have a choice to make on a project-by-project basis, are the risks of a problem occuring in production greater than the time cost of added QA cycles?   Many IT projects (even in government settings) can afford to take on additional risk in favor of reducing development costs and time to market.  Projects such as healthcare.gov are on the opposite end of the spectrum where the risk of production issues far outweigh the cost of added QA time in the development process.

One can hope the balance of QA emphasis vs. Agile development remains in check.  QA and development process adherance needs to be considered on a project-by-project basis, all software/IT projects are not created equal.  

Great post, thanks for sharing your viewpoint.
anon4167415912
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anon4167415912,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/11/2013 | 10:25:45 AM
Not Again- Another Widget for the Power Point
The problem is not with existing methodologies. The problem is no one actually follows it. There are enough books on Software Development and some of the best one's are in Cross Talk, a DoD publication.

It is the leaders job to ensure a methodology is completely followed. I don't believe we need a new widget.

Many vendors especially, software outsourcers claim they have a methodology and processes but it is only in their Power Point.

First step is to select a competent vendor who has corecompetencies. Office Technology Asseessment (OTA) or similar needs to be resurected. Since, its closing, agencies have run amock because they depend on vendors to tell them what is best solution and vendor sells them what they want to sell.

Technology assessment and Developing Technology Strategy require special skills and every Software Developer walks through the door doesn't have a clue.
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