IT systems as a team sport

HealthCare.gov has everyone focused on technology and acquisition, but Bob Woods argues that the real emphasis should be on knowing one's stakeholders.

team of attentive businesspeople

Much is being written about IT these days. Dissection has run along the lines of IT's creation, operation and acquisition. Without a date on an article's byline, however, it is difficult to tell in what decade it was written.

Claims of technology being outdated, procured by the unknowing or uncaring and produced by an industry interested more in profits than performance are just as current in 2013 as they were four decades ago. When Texas Democrat Jack Brooks authored the Brooks Act, he made the same accusations and more.

So how are we to deal with behavior that fits the often-quoted definition of insanity -- i.e., doing the same things over and over while expecting different results?

Large-scale, IT-based systems require myriad people with different skills, motivations and political orientations. To assume we can delegate the likes of the HealthCare.gov website to just one of those groups is a recipe for failure. Engineers didn't make HealthCare.gov fail. Contracting officers didn't make it fail. Congress didn't make it fail. Industry didn't make it fail. But it failed nonetheless.

As we seek to determine why, we want quick, easy and clear answers. In today's politically charged environment, the autopsy phase of this "teachable moment" is not likely to get the analytical effort that it truly needs. The kind of review and analysis performed after a major air carrier accident will not happen for HealthCare.gov. Instead, we'll likely get legislative fixes by congressman with attention deficit disorder. The shock, dismay and hyperbole are already in full swing.

So what does it take to design, develop and deploy large-scale mission systems? A key ingredient is including the team that will be with the process through its full life cycle. No part is expendable, and leadership is needed to see it through. Compare the activity to a major military campaign. There are lots of parts to be coordinated, many of which must be led, fed and sustained. Rewards and punishments must be known and executed. There is no time to rely on legislation or dogma. It is a team effort and must be managed with that in mind.

Forming a team and keeping it together while dealing with stakeholder groups is tantamount to running a major military campaign.

Leaders have many critical functions. Communication is vital to keep the stakeholders and team members informed and committed, and it must be done often and in small doses. Waiting can become a festering sore, with team members and stakeholders asking: "Why haven't we been briefed or informed? The rumors say one thing, you say another."

Stakeholders generally fall into four major categories. First are the clients or constituencies. Failure with them is total failure. Second are the employees or soldiers. They will execute your plan. Third are key teammates, often industry or other agencies. If you choose poorly here, they can cost you a bundle and ensure failure. Fourth are the authorizers and oversight groups, which might include Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the press and late-night comedians. They shoot the survivors.

Forming a team and keeping it together while dealing with stakeholder groups is tantamount to running a major military campaign. It requires all the same functional efforts to varying degrees.

HealthCare.gov's leaders have the sense of being drawn in many different directions, much as Gen. Colin Powell must have felt during the Gulf War. Unfortunately, no one tells the leaders of an effort like implementing the Affordable Care Act that it could be more complicated than a major military campaign -- or that winning in this team sport will be anything but easy.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.