The failure of Healthcare.gov is no surprise. It is, after all, a website, just like any other website.
I come across this same thing almost daily with my clients. They want what they call “a website” by a certain date, but wait till the last minute to provide me with (1) the specifications of what they want, (2) the information that they need posted, or (3) the functionality they require. Then they wonder why the deadline can’t be met; or they wonder why the deadline was met, but the site doesn’t work properly.
When a site designer agrees to honor a deadline over which they essentially have only limited control, we have what I call the WISHFUL THINKING SYNDROME. They hope everything will work before being able to test completely, since, to them, it looks like it should work.
When the site doesn’t work (after it is launched), everything goes to pot, because it takes weeks and months to uncover and resolve all the problems. Quality control is needed to ensure that the site will operate effectively under all conditions. Meanwhile users become angry because their time has been wasted trying to make a nonworking website work. And they have a right to be angry. It feels like a fraud; and frankly, it is.
Throw in government bureaucracy and you have a recipe for disaster with all the trimmings. After several delays before the bill was finally law–especially after the government didn’t know for quite some time whether the law would be struck down (until the Supreme Court ruling resolved that issue)–there was no time left.
You can’t set a deadline until you have a reasonable understanding of what is involved in making and testing a website, and you can’t honor a deadline over which you have only limited control.
Healthcare.gov site was doomed from the start. There is no precedent that I know of for a site built on this scale in so short a time, and it was naive for all to hope that it would.