In a few months, the Affordable Care Act enrollment system will finally be working well, millions of people will have enrolled, and the debate will return to the basic policy and political question of whether the whole program is good for the U.S. or not. By 2015, the IT profession as a whole, government procurement services, and the contractors will forget the lessons of the October-November fiasco and will largely or completely return to the same practices as before: unrealistic deadlines, lack of testing, big waterfall lifecycle models, tell-me-what-I-want-to-hear practices, etc.
Why am I being so pessimistic? Because we’ve been here before. The Y2K effort consumed a lot of resources, and contrary to many people, I don’t believe it was in vain. But look at how many Web sites today still require dates in “mm/dd/yy” format, not “mm/dd/yyyy”! Or look at the 2008 financial crisis, which resulted in regulations for the reporting of financial risk information according to a standard that the government still hasn’t defined. Or at whether real changes have occurred in the deep sea drilling business after the Macondo accident?
Companies are shortsighted because they work toward their next quarterly results. Governments are shortsighted because they work toward the next election. Do yourself a favor and look at your system architecture issues, your development lifecycles, your quality assurance practices, and your IT-business communication with a view toward long-term improvements. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start with a “technical debt” assessment.
[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]