The CIO for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Tony Trenkle, is leaving CMS, the agency embroiled in the hideously ridiculous rollout of government's Healthcare.gov insurance marketplace website. He is departing effective Nov. 15 to take an undisclosed position in the private sector.
This shocks me—not the “leaving,” part—but the part about going to a position in the private sector. I’m shocked because if I had one piece of advice to give anyone who worked on the project, either in a coding role or in tech leadership it would be this: Immediately X out that little adventure from your resume.
I don’t care if you were just the spellchecker on the content side, distance yourself quickly. Plug something more palatable into your resume, like during those months you were Miley Cyrus’ image consultant.
Even the folks at the top of this trash heap were able to spin a better story out of what happened, they would still have to admit that they were guilty of an unimaginable lack of communication.
Be clear: I’m not stating an opinion on the concept of Obamacare. I’m focusing here about the project. How could it happen? How could a project of such monumental proportions fail so miserably? You’d think that—knowing a whole political party was waiting with fingers crossed that something would go wrong—everybody involved would have treated the details of the project with the same scrutiny as they would in mapping the human genome.
I know the first excuse is that a short timeline was the culprit. Maybe so. Maybe the project’s architects, managers, and coders were all screaming to slow the train down but no one listened.
But from what I can cull from news reports, it might have been a communication issue. Some of the people involved—like chief project manager Henry Chao—claim they were kept in the dark about serious failures in the website’s security. But then, according to a later Huffington Post article:
In a July 16 email sent ahead of a meeting with then-prime contractor CGI Federal, Chao described the agency's low confidence level in the project work, from constant struggles with releases to changing delivery dates and poor quality assurance on software.
So was everyone on the same page or not? At some point it’s clear that the communication stopped, whether out of pressure to launch on schedule or because the people in the trenches weren’t sharing their concerns with the right people. Maybe they were scared. Who knows? The point is that there was information to be shared and it wasn’t.
I’m sure we’ll find out the whole story in a year or so when Hollywood picks up the film rights. Which just may be the undisclosed position in the private sector Mr. Trenkle is headed to.
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Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.