The US healthcare website was supposed to make it easier for people to compare insurance plans and sign up for coverage. Unfortunately, the website experienced serious technical difficulties on launch day, prompting some politicians to point fingers at President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The problems with the healthcare website provide an opportunity for managers to learn about common project management mistakes and determine the best way to avoid them when planning a big launch.
One of the biggest lessons you can learn from the problems with the national healthcare website is that there is no such thing as too much testing. Although developers tested the website many times, it actually failed a trial run just a few days before it was set to launch. The site should have been able to handle tens of thousands of users, but it was unable to pass a test with a few hundred users. This is why so many Americans experienced technical difficulties when they tried to use the site to find information or enroll in new healthcare plans.
The healthcare website failure also illustrates the importance of creating a realistic project management timeline. Although it has been several years since lawmakers passed the Affordable Care Act, developers should have had more time to build and test the system. Estimating the amount of time it will take to complete a project is one of the most important skills you can develop as a manager or business professional. Before you develop a project timeline, make sure you understand what is required. Include enough time for meetings, reports, and other project activities. Instead of estimating the amount of time you need to complete the entire project, estimate how much time it will take to complete each item on your list. This will help you come up with realistic project schedules.
Communication is also an important aspect of managing projects. It is especially important when working with outside contractors. A development agency worked on the healthcare website, but several government agencies were also involved. President Obama said he was unaware of the technical issues, but others say he was warned ahead of time that things were not going well with the website. This demonstrates the importance of communicating about project problems in a timely manner. If a project develops problems, document them in an email or memo so you have a record of the communication.
The problems with Healthcare.gov are not unique to government projects. Anyone working in the private sector knows how difficult it is to create realistic timelines and anticipate problems when developing websites. Remember to test new websites or applications thoroughly before launching them, or you run the risk of upsetting customers and hurting your company's reputation. Use the problems with the healthcare website as an opportunity to learn, and you will be able to develop valuable management skills.
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