As a project manager and Web developer, I’ve been completely fascinated with the failure of the project behind the Healthcare.gov Web site. Many contractors were tasked with building the Web site behind the Affordable Health Care Act by October 1st of this year. It wasn’t ready in time but the site launched anyway. Now, three weeks later, the site works for only a small percentage of its visitors. Who is to blame?
I would argue that the project manager is to blame. It was well known that the project was incredibly behind schedule, and there was enough notice to delay the site’s launch. They expected a large and sudden amount of traffic to the site, and they surely knew the site would fail to handle the load. Incredible traffic like this is manageable, and the recent BlackBerry rollout of BBM is a stellar example of how to correctly manage it. BlackBerry put a line-up system in place, allowing people to sign up immediately but receive BBM in staggered increments. That’s one way to handle server loads of this magnitude, and it’s not the only way.
I’m sure I’m one in a huge collection of people watching dumbfounded as the health care project crashes and burns. It will be just as interesting to see how the problems are resolved. In the end, though, the project was a failure and it will trash otherwise promising careers because people did not make the right decisions. I can’t imagine telling the White House that the site would not be ready while refusing to release it, but that seems like it would have been the best course of action. Providing a faulty product like Healthcare.gov is worse than providing nothing at all.
I’m very interested in your thoughts on this matter from a project management standpoint. What should the project manager have done?