So it’s true that no one ever got fired for buying IBM
Recent events related to the problems with HealthCare.gov seem to confirm the famous line (at least in the world of software) that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”
The success of HealthCare.gov, opened to the public on October 1, depends in part on the ability to quickly resolve technical problems associated with the site. In the recent New York Times article that highlighted the multitude of problems with the site, one vendor, MarkLogic, was singled out as a possible culprit: “Some of the companies building the system opposed an early decision by the Medicare agency to use database software from a company called MarkLogic, which handles data differently from systems by companies like IBM and Oracle.” Absent were any mentions of the merits of the product or why it was chosen.
Unfortunately, it feels like another case of the mainstream media (in the context of a politically charged event, but that’s another story) picking on the little guy. If someone had thought to interview an industry expert able to clarify how what the new solution offers differs from the more traditional ones, they would have discovered that the conversion of resources required by the site’s database (for which MarkLogic supplied/built/created an XML database) is neither more expensive nor more complex than the extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) process required by traditional relational databases.
In a market where the different choices available may be overwhelming or require a complex level of understanding, managers under pressure to solve a problem often end up choosing based on reputation (and the perceived certainty or security that certain brands suggest) out of fear of having to shoulder the blame should something go wrong. Such choices often happen at the expense of little known but strong companies with innovative technologies that may be the less safe choice.
Despite all the innovative technologies out there, innovating the decision-making process—especially in a political environment—to ensure the best match between problem and solution, is made even more difficult when the stakes are so high. In the end, it’s the power of technology, team work and testing that come together to make any solution work.