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Always Enough Time to Do It Over

11:47 am in Government, Politics, Technology by dakine01

If you have been reading my posts over these last few years, you are most likely aware that my chosen career field is Software Quality Assurance and Testing so needless to say, I have found the contretemps about the Affordable Care Act web site to be quite interesting. A friend from my small hometown in Kentucky last Wednesday (October 23) posted a link to a New York Times opinion piece by Dr Ezekiel Emanuel about the problems:
"If you build it, he will come"

First, the Obama administration acted too slowly. It waited too long to release specific regulations and guidance on how the exchange would work. It also waited too long to begin building the physical Web site. These delays were largely because the administration wanted to avoid election-year controversy. This may have been a smart political move in the short term, but it left the administration scrambling to get the IT infrastructure together in time, robbing it of an opportunity to adequately consult with independent experts, test the site and fix any problems before it opened to the public.

Second, the ostensible quarterback of the federal health care exchanges, with responsibility for integrating all the various components, is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. While the agency has expertise in issuing reimbursement rules and overseeing large-scale claims-processing operations, it has little expertise in creating a complex e-commerce Web site. More important, there was no single senior person in the agency tasked with running the exchange rollout.

Finally, this was not the first health insurance exchange ever created. Massachusetts has had years of experience with its exchange, and there are private exchanges, like eHealth, where individuals can shop for insurance. In addition, many states, like California, Connecticut and Kentucky, had already spent around two years building their exchanges, gaining experience and proving it was possible to create a good customer shopping experience. It does not appear that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or its contractors spent much time reviewing these models and adopting best practices.

My friend had posted a comment with the link about how he was curious about the technical design, project plan, QA processes and other software development metrics and planning used. I added my 2¢ worth in the following comment:

I will go out on a limb here and with no evidence (other than experience in large complex applications) state that the QA process was probably cut short due to other “unexpected problems”

Now just imagine my (lack of) surprise when I saw news reports on Thursday about there being extremely limited testing of the site. From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — Private contractors working on the troubled federal health insurance marketplace told a congressional committee Thursday that they needed several months, but only had two weeks, before the launch date to fully test what could be the most complex government IT system in U.S. history.

I have worked on large, complex client-server applications for child welfare databases for various states. I have tested various applications or overseen testing as an IV&V contractor in multiple states. I was not at all surprised to hear that testing had been given short shrift because testing is pretty much always given short shrift. Invariably, the project schedule and “go-live” dates are seemingly graven in stone so when problems crop up, time has to be taken from other areas in order to meet the required date. So time most frequently is taken from testing. Hyperbole requires me to say at this point that “I can’t imagine the pressure the testers were under to meet the schedule” but in fact, I can very well imagine the pressure they were under. It is a cliche but many software development professionals can attest, there is never enough time to do things right the first time but there is always enough time to do things over.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will now state that the overall contractor for the effort, CGI Federal, is part of what was a former employer of mine, American Management Systems although I was part of the State and Local Government Group rather than the Federal (non-DoD) Group.

While I am among the uninsured, I have not gone to the web site for a couple of reasons. First, I am a veteran so will be checking in a couple of weeks to see what coverage I am eligible for through the Veterans Administration. I have not checked with the VA yet because I did not want to be bothering them while they were dealing with the recent shutdown. Secondly, I am residing in Kentucky which has its own newly launched insurance exchange (as noted by Dr Emanuel above) so if I am not covered through the VA, then I will enroll through KYnect along with a few thousand other fellow Kentuckians.

For what it’s worth, CNBC had this article on Tuesday (October 22) with some quotes from a former president of Oracle:

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There are no magic wands.

12:47 pm in Economy, Financial Crisis, Government, Media by dakine01

Occupy Wall Street sign

Occupy Wall Street sign

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Mr Pierce’s joint and saw he had a post up and the video of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box this past Friday (July 12), talking about her proposed legislation to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act from the 1930s. I made it almost to the end of the video snippet Mr Pierce had posted when I heard a preposterous question (Columbia Journalism Review identifies the questioner as one Joe Kernen – and accurately identifies the question as a straw-man):

Sullivan’s dumb question is followed by a straw man question from Joe Kernan about how Glass-Steagall—all by itself—wouldn’t have prevented the financial crisis. Warren has amiably knocked that one down before (not coincidentally, it came from CNBCer and NYTer Andrew Ross Sorkin), and she does here as well.

As I was writing this diary, I came across an article from Fortune Magazine on Monday where the author first claims:

Last week, the unlikely political pair introduced a bill aimed at recreating the 1933 law. The effort is welcomed, but the protections of Glass-Steagall aren’t a cure-all for bank risk today — its repeal didn’t cause the financial crisis. And reinstating the law likely won’t protect Americans from another one.

Then immediately follows this first paragraph with this:

This isn’t to say a law like Glass-Steagall isn’t needed. Warren and McCain’s proposal would separate traditional banks that offer your standard checking and savings accounts insured by The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from riskier institutions, such as those involved in investment banking, the sale of insurance products, hedge funds, private equity, and the like.

When did we reach the point where proposed legislation like Glass-Steagall is being presented as a miracle cure/magic wand that will cure all the ills? We do not live in a binary world where the options are all-or-nothing. Senator Warren maintained her composure and pointed out to the Wall St Shills Squawk Box hosts this exact point.

Yet this is no where near the first time we hear Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Politicians, and Courtiers use the argument that X legislation won’t totally solve a problem in-and-of itself so we should not do anything at all. I’m thinking right now specifically of the opposition to even the most basic expansion of background checks at gun shows. Background checks alone will not solve the problems with the proliferation of guns but they just might keep them out of the hands of some folks who should not be allowed to carry (criminals for example.) Will someone who is intent on obtaining a weapon going to be stopped? Probably not. But what is wrong in making it a tad more difficult for them?

We do not live in a binary world, so let’s stop trying to pretend that the solutions are only binary. Oh, and Jim Cramer? When you have to protest that Senator Warren did not make an impact on the issue of Glass-Steagall with her appearance? You pretty much confirm that she DID make an impact.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Oh Noes! Wall Street Might Not Get Their Bonuses!

3:26 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

So I was doing my standard web surfing this AM after I had checked the (non-existent) jobs listings when I saw this from Bloomberg with the title, “Half of Wall Street Employees Expect Bigger Bonuses”:

Almost half of Wall Street employees expect their year-end bonuses to be higher this year than they were a year ago, according to an eFinancialCareers.com survey.

Of the 911 U.S. financial professionals who responded to the e-mailed survey, 48 percent anticipate a higher payout, up from 41 percent in a similar survey last year, the job-search website said today in a statement. Employees of hedge funds and other asset managers were more optimistic than those at banks and broker-dealers, according the statement. Of the respondents, 82 percent work for U.S.-based companies.

Well imagine my surprise this afternoon when I see this one from Bloomberg titled “Wall Street Bonus Pool Seen Shrinking for Second Straight Year”:

Wall Street’s cash bonus pool is likely to fall for a second straight year as the financial industry grapples with market turmoil, economic weakness and new rules, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

Revenue and compensation trends have “edged downward” since February, when DiNapoli estimated that the 2011 pool for Wall Street declined by 13.5 percent to $19.7 billion, the comptroller said today in a report.

The New York Times presented it this way this afternoon:

It still pays to be on Wall Street.

Even as the financial industry in New York has slashed jobs by the thousands, the average worker who remains is collecting a near-record paycheck.

In a report released on Tuesday, the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said that the average pay package of securities industry employees grew slightly last year and was up 16.6 percent over the past two years, to $362,950. Wall Street’s total compensation rose 4 percent last year to more than $60 billion.

CNBC appears to be trying to split the differences with this report titled “Wall Street Expects Bigger Bonuses But May Not Get Them” as they report on the same survey that Bloomberg covered in the first link:

Revenue is down on Wall Street but expectations for bonuses are up — at least for some workers who have seen their pay shrink since the financial crisis explosion.

A survey from eFinancial Careers shows 48 percent of workers on the Street are looking for higher bonuses than 2011. Expectations are high even as investment banking revenue is down 11 percent for the same period last year while the securities industry overall saw revenue fall 7 percent in the first half.

At the same time, some of the larger firms have been doing better as the headwinds from the European debt crisis subside and hopes grow that the industry will close the year out strongly.

Meanwhile as Wall Street whines its way along, our (not-so-favorite) Masters of the Universe, Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are once again daring to spout their nonsense. Jon Walker at FDL Action presents this:

What I find most ironic about these CEO deficit hawks complaining about the “uncertainty” that is hurting the economy is that they are the ones responsible for helping to create said uncertainty to begin with. The deficit obsession created the uncertainty about raising the debt ceiling. Similarly, they constantly pushed for a big deficit deal resulting in the creation of the sequesters, which are seen as a big source of the fiscal uncertainty at the moment. The main “uncertainty” about government policy right now is how the government will clean up the mess created by past efforts to force a deficit deal.

But hey, MotU never have to be accountable for destroying the economy. After all, they deserve those millions dollars of bonuses right? Destroying the global economy is hard ass work so they must be compensated for it.

Meanwhile, CNN actually touches base with the real world with this article on part time jobs being the new normal in employment. Notice how much attention is paid to the ravings of Blankfein and Dimon and the Wall St WATB versus the attention paid to the rest of us in the real world?

And because I can:
Happy Birthday John. RIP

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor