There's putting out fires, and then there's healthcare.govPosted by drew crawford on .
It's well documented how rocky the healthcare.gov rollout was this past fall. There were plenty of articles piling on as the debacle was unfolding, but now we're finally able to get a peak at what was happening behind the scenes.
The big whoops
Let me start by saying, there is nothing unusual about failed software projects. It's notoriously difficult to write good software, especially when it needs to scale to handle a hefty traffic load. However, the significance of the healthcare.gov failure coupled with the amount of money that the government spent creating the system made it a significant event last fall.
There was an abundance of articles during the outages of healthcare.gov that pointed out the stability issues, contracting firms that dropped the ball, security flaws, and so on. Today Time Magazine released an article online (which is the feature story in their upcoming print edition) that pulls back the curtain on what was going on with the team that was trying to save this tool which had such an important role in supporting "Obamacare".
Anyone that makes a living creating software will (should?) find this article fascinating. The problems that the technical team behind healthcare.gov were facing are not unusual. The press coverage and deadline pressure they were facing were very unusual though. Very few people will ever have to write software while giving daily updates to the POTUS.
I enjoyed how the article described some of the measures that were taken to actually fix the issues. By describing their team formation, working hours, and high-level solutions for some of the problems, the article was exactly what I wanted to read about the situation.
It's no surprise to me that many of the members of the team agreed to help fix the problem without expecting any kind of compensation (though they did end up getting paid less than they'd get in a private sector job). What is interesting though is that they were able to have so much success and therefore save so much taxpayer money. Even if you disagree with the policies driving healthcare.gov, you should be thankful that these individuals were able to avoid the government trying to start over from the beginning with the website.
Go read the article
As you can probably tell if you're still reading this, I really enjoyed this article and think you would to. It's not a quick read, but it's well worth your time. Bookmark it or whatever you need to do, but just read it!
Link: Obama's Trauma Team
I'm a software engineer in beautiful Birmingham, AL; just trying to make things happen and learn a little along the way. Roll Tide.