Saturday, March 22, 2014

Silicon Valley to the Rescue

Earlier this month Time featured a behind-the-scenes look at the hastily assembled team of engineers and programmers who rescued from total disaster. Silicon Valley work methodologies and work ethics, which are alien to the carry-out-orders-and-ask-permission ways of Washington, accomplished in a few months what the Federal Government's bureaucrats could not accomplish in three years.

The task force set forth rules which anyone who's been thrown into an IT crisis will find familiar [bold added]:
Rule 1: “The war room and the meetings are for solving problems. There are plenty of other venues where people devote their creative energies to shifting blame.”

Rule 2: “The ones who should be doing the talking are the people who know the most about an issue, not the ones with the highest rank. If anyone finds themselves sitting passively while managers and executives talk over them with less accurate information, we have gone off the rails, and I would like to know about it.” (Explained [Google exec Mikey] Dickerson later: “If you can get the managers out of the way, the engineers will want to solve things.”)

Rule 3: “We need to stay focused on the most urgent issues, like things that will hurt us in the next 24–48 hours.”
By Christmas Eve, the sign-up deadline, the site's response time was down to less than a second, and it could handle nearly 100,000 simultaneous users without crashing. As of this week Health and Human Services claims 5 million people have enrolled. Although the billing interface with the insurance companies is still months from completion, processing obstacles no longer appear insurmountable.

1) President Obama has formidable technical resources at his disposal. Some of the most skilled tech wizards in the country were willing to drop what they were doing (and they had bosses who would let them) to work round-the-clock for three months on a project which could well have gone nowhere.

2) Obamacare may still fail because of program design (e.g., not enough subscribers, huge deficits, etc.) but the website won't be the reason.

No comments: