Smart people learn from their mistakes, but really smart business owners learn from someone else’s mistakes. That being said, the recent launch of HealthCare.gov presents lots of practical lessons for business owners who are planning to launch a website. As any battle-hardened technology project manager will tell you, tight deadlines, limited funding and massive scope are three components that together can almost guarantee disaster. One of these elements usually has to be eliminated for the project to succeed.
The problems that beset the launch of the Heathcare.gov website are shared with all too many large technology projects. Let’s look at some of the basic principles of project management that fell by the wayside as HealthCare.gov wobbled toward its launch date.
- Constant quality assurance from the beginning to the end of the project.
With a project of any complexity, everyone involved must provide input to make sure the web designers know what is required to do the job. Effective two-way communication throughout the project is crucial to developing a successful website. How many entities are involved in the website? Does the website give users what they need to make informed decisions? Can they navigate the site easily and intuitively? Developers should determine logical stages for project review as they develop software and add functions, and then bring all the stakeholders involved together for a review at appropriate times. At these review stages, there should be tests to examine and uncover any errors that would prove costly to fix later in the project’s life cycle. When time and money are short, quality assurance checks often become cursory or are skipped completely. This is a false economy. There are no shortcuts to getting it right.
- People building the website should understand the industry involved
There’s a big difference in the type of site needed if you’re selling shoes or health care insurance, and this needs to be reflected in the skills set and expertise of the website technical team.
- Begin small and add functions when your site is launched and running successfully
If your business is a complex serviced-based one like health care insurance, you might walk before you run and roll-out the first phase of your new website before you add more complex options.
- Security Risk Assessment is a Priority
Having a secure way to collect, store and safeguard your clients’ financial and confidential data is mandatory. There’s no second chance to get this right. You must test software for security risks at every stage and do a final risk assessment before rollout.
- Will your website cope with an initial rush of traffic or with a surge in inquiries?
Crashed servers, software malfunctions and painfully slow loading times were features of the newly launched HealthCare.gov site. Make sure you forecast and line up sufficient server capacity for the launch and subsequent phases of your website. Also consider how many users will be accessing the same feature at the same time.
- Check if your site is (and remains) user friendly and meets your goals?
Make sure you’ve created a site that is intuitive and easy to use. Get input before (and after) launch from users, and eliminate confusing site structure and unhelpful graphics. Most importantly, does the website do what it was designed to do?