Saving a bureaucratic software project
A recently published article, "The Secret Startup That Saved the Worst Website in America" details some of the problems with the Healthcare.gov launch fiasco that "so bad it nearly broke the Affordable Care Act."
It also outlines how a small team rewrote much of the software "working as a startup within the government and replacing contractor-made apps with ones costing one-fiftieth of the price."
A key point is something I've written about before, namely that one good programmer equals an infinite number of mediocre ones.
A handful of bright, motivated programmers can easily beat a massive army of corporate drones, middle managers and bureaucrats.
This is related to Brooks' law, which states that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." Or in other words, "nine women can't make a baby in one month."
"The government’s method of running software turned on a sequential design strategy known as “the waterfall”: a central calendar, the Gantt chart to end all Gantt charts, that promulgated when every task would finish. The government tried running software development as a bureaucratic process, with project managers managing project managers, and the whole thing broke."This is pretty much the exact opposite of how you want to manage software development. In fact, it is #1 on my list of Top 5 Software Project Management Mistakes.
Kudos to the "Marketplace Lite team" at Healthcare.gov that did America a great service by helping to teach the government how to build software The Right Way™ :-)