Obamacare: The Biggest Mishap in PM of 2013?

Projects rarely make news, but when they do, it is almost always because of their failures.  Obamacare was the biggest failure in Project Management during 2013.  It dominated the headlines and made many powerful people really sweat.  The question is really why Obamacare rollout was a complete disaster?  I am using this article from the Huffington Post to dive into the failings of Obamacare.


1. Obamacare’s rollout was unsuccessful because the timeline was developed by senior management that didn’t truly understand the scope of the work.

How many times has this happened to one of you?  You are given a project that you have deep understanding of, but you have little say in what the timeline will be.    Had a better timeline been developed, the rollout of Obamacare may be looked at completely different now.


2. #1 directly leads to the 2nd point.  Contracts were to contractors that gave the best price and timeline, whether or not it was realistic.

Obamacare was a classic example of over promising and under delivering.  Contractors were busy whispering sweet nothings into the Obamacare administrators’ ears, knowing that what they were selling was not possible.  They were doing what was necessary to win the contract.  How can we prevent this in our own careers?


3. The scope was ever-changing making it impossible to predict when a successful rollout could happen.

Scope creep is a problem that always seems to show up in projects and Obamacare was no different.  When the scope changed, the administrators had a choice whether or not to have a contract bidding war between contractors or to give the current contractors the work and simply agree to a scope change.  It was cheaper and faster (remember we are on a timeline here!) to agree to a scope change with the current contractors.


At rollout Obamacare was a complete failure.  The President even admitted this.  It offers many examples of what NOT to do when running a massive project.  I think the two main takeaways that I see are:

1. Communication between all layers of the organization is vital.  Senior management must communicate with those in the field to develop the project.  Senior managers do not know everything.

2. Having contractors that are trustworthy and won’t just tell you what you want to hear can lead to more successful project launches (even if they are a bit more expensive).

What do you think could have been done better?