Your Worst Foe
By Hans Mulder
The Standish Group has said many times that users can be your best friend or your worst foe. Once again, the Dutch government has another challenged IT project. Besides loss of taxpayers' money, the failure of the system has a direct consequence for citizens with physical limitations, who are completely dependent on timely and correct payment of their healthcare needs. As of January 1st of this year, the Dutch law was changed. Before that time, people were managing their own personal budget, but that system was susceptible to fraud. Therefore, per the 1st of January, the budget is managed by the Social Insurance Bank (SVB) and paid directly to the citizen’s healthcare provider. The new system required citizens to use a new website that was implemented in a “big bang boom.” (See BIG BANG BOOM - The Standish Group.) This approach had major consequences: Payments came too late, were incorrect, and many were not paid at all.
As The Standish Group’s European Research Director, I advised the Dutch Government to learn from international cases, such as the USA Healthcare.gov case, because there are similarities between the Dutch challenged project and Healthcare.gov (see Computerworld article). Healthcare.gov's problems included incorrect data recording among other things. President Barack Obama said that there is "no excuse" for the problems at the site.
Following the advice of Jim Johnson, founder, chairman, and CEO of Standish Group, October 2013, now more than two years ago, could have saved the Dutch project: "They didn't have a chance in hell," said Johnson of Healthcare.gov. "There was no way they were going to get this right - they only had a 6% chance," he said. Software development experts and analysts point to multiple issues as the potential cause of such problems. The "most dangerous" of all failure points for a software development project is the "big bang" release, the approach the government took by releasing the ACA site on Oct. 1, said Johnson. Other sources of problems, said Johnson, could be too many changes made along the way, and too much bureaucracy. Slow-moving government and contractor designers and developers can stymie or slow projects. Many large projects are rolled out slowly and incrementally to allow extended testing and feedback, said Johnson.
So apply an incremental step-by-step approach, which involves the citizens and makes them the best friends of the system (please see: Youtube video), rather than a big bang boom which can turn citizens into the system’s worst foes.