States aren’t blameless — last-minute change to contracts have caused some delays and added expense, says Alan Weil, executive director at the National Academy for State Health Policy. The exchanges are also ambitious projects. Still, he says, the contractors are huge companies familiar with complexity, and in most cases they’ve had years to address the sites’ problems. “Let’s just say they don’t always put their A Team on every project,” Weil says. How Tech Giants Botched Obamacare, Bloomberg Businessweek, Apr 7, 2014.
Last minute changes, I often argue, are normal and expected especially in large long term projects. We need to plan for these kind of contingencies. These should never be reasons for failures. A primary reason business is transitioning from Waterfall project management to Agile methods is because life changes as time goes by, and we need to adapt as it happens.
For additional insight behind why, see: Scope Creep Should Be Mandatory
Just because we use big name companies, does not mean they will be successful at anything except staying in business and making money. In the Air Force we had a similiar great idea. Since we were not doing well at creating and updating our own software intensive systems, we would contract with these big name companies (many the same as with Obamacare) to do the work.
Did that solve our problems? No. The one key lesson learned was that if we can’t manage successfully our own teams to do the work, then we probably can’t manage an outsourced team to do any better. These companies are expert at extracting revenue from government agencies that can’t manage projects well. We have to get our own act together, first. Our management problems can rarely be solved by contracting or outsourcing.
Oh yes, that is the solution! Put the “A” team on the project and we would not have had any problems. Management was not the problem, the people doing the work were just not the best. I’ve heard this and variations too often. There are some great people out there, but I guarantee that if we manage them as badly as we do everyone else they will perform just as poorly. In addition, I often find that the “B” teams are as good and even better than the “A” teams.
For more details, see: Want Project Management Quality? Use the “B” Team
Did the Tech giants botch Obamacare? Probably in part. My experience is that when something is botched, it is almost equally spread across management (government or business) and the contracting company. However, the agency requesting the contract is always pretty much the initiator of any botching and the winning contractor is too readily happy to deal with whatever situation results, as long as they keep getting paid. Good results first require good management on our part.
What are you doing to ensure your contracts are managed well from the beginning?