From the start, signs of trouble at health portal

I enjoyed this New York Times A1 story on the health care exchange web portal launch; it highlighted a lot of problems that can plague any tech launch.

But Mr. Chao’s superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services told him, in effect, that failure was not an option, according to people who have spoken with him…Former government officials say the White House, which was calling the shots, feared that any backtracking would further embolden Republican critics who were trying to repeal the health care law.

Put politics aside. It’s a classic case of inflexible business requirements smashed up against mounting technical problems. Many of us have been there, and the results are rarely pretty.

Nor was rolling out the system in stages or on a smaller scale, as companies like Google typically do so that problems can more easily and quietly be fixed.

Massive release with little fallback or rollout strategy? Recipe for disaster.

Others warned that the fixes themselves were creating new problems, and said that the full extent of the problems might not be known because so many consumers had been stymied at the first step in the application process.

Sounds like there’s not enough load testing and QA isn’t thorough enough to catch regressions. Yikes.