Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lessons Learned from the Federal Health-Exchange

I received a phone call recently asking for my opinion regarding to the lessons learned from the Federal Health Exchange (healthcare.gov). It is really on the spotlight recently, for both political and practical reasons. What I can say is that this is not a big surprise. Many IT projects are implemented this way today, just not being caught in the big stress test under spotlight like this one. One of the important lessons learned is the importance of overall planning, architecture, and leadership. Actually, the federal government has well recognized the importance of such matters, and made legislation requirement for enterprise architecture across departments and agencies. The key, however, is How to Do It Effectively 

In other words, we can say: this is an un-accomplished IT paradigm shift meets a practical challenge. The demands are moving fast then IT shifting in action. A very good alert! It also revealed how important IT is today in order to achieve business goals.
We need a good plan for the project like this one, and need a good leader with vision and subject matter expertise, as the major stakeholder.
We need good overall architecture to serve as guidance for not only the planning and development, but also for test and verification. This is the typical short fall in current practice, and this one just happened to be in the spotlight and experienced a practical stress test. Piecemeal and ad hoc don't work anymore for current big and widely connected systems. The quality of architecture products makes big difference.
We also need inter-enterprise architecture, as I proposed earlier, to guide the collaboration across organizational boundaries. The architecture products are not only for compliance or showcase, but also for real usages as its real and ultimate purpose. We need the architecture leader (i.e. the chief architect) as the expert in the subject domain, not only the coordinator and manager.

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