The worst IT project disasters of 2013

The Healthcare.gov rollout leads a pack of painful projects

By , IDG News Service |  Software, HealthCare.gov, project management

Healthcare.gov User Experience

Healthcare.gov User Experience

Image credit: flickr/Mike Licht

Trends come and go in the technology industry but some things, such as IT system failures, bloom eternal.

"Nothing has changed," said analyst Michael Krigsman of consulting firm Asuret, an expert on why IT projects go off the rails. "Not a damn thing."

"These are hard problems," he added. "People mistakenly believe that IT failures are due to a technical problem or a software problem, and in fact it has its roots into the culture, how people work together, how they share knowledge, the politics of an organization. The worse the politics, the more likely the failure."

Here's a look at some of this year's highest-profile IT disasters.

Healthcare.gov: By now everyone knows about the health insurance shopping website's problems upon the Oct. 1 go-live, when many users couldn't access the system and only about 30 percent were actually able to sign up for health care.

Following a frenzied effort to fix bugs in the system, U.S. officials said Healthcare.gov had been stabilized as of Dec. 1. But the work is not yet complete. Last week, officials said 25 percent of applications sent from Healthcare.gov to private insurers contain errors that were caused by the website.

Yet to come is a final fix, as well as a full accounting of why the Healthcare.gov launch stumbled.

Krigsman is skeptical that fallout from Healthcare.gov will lead to any major reforms. But the controversy has had one effect, he added. "IT failures have really hit the mainstream media in a way they never did before."

Queensland Health payroll system: The government of Queensland, Australia, announced in August that IBM would no longer be allowed to sign new consulting contracts with the state after its "bungle" of a payroll system project that reportedly could cost taxpayers up to AUS$1.2 billion (US$1.1 billion).

"It appears that IBM took the state of Queensland for a ride," Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said at the time.

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