Nov 12, 2012

Lessons IT can take away from Romney campaign's Orca project?

Putting aside who you wanted to win the presidential campaign, one thing that I was interested in was the Romney campaign's Project Orca, which in concept allowed real time updates to individual voter status as reported by in situ observers at polling stations. In practice, Orca was a wonderfully named fail whale example. http://www.ucstrategies.com/unified-communications-newsroom/project-orca...

To lay it out as simply as possible, the campaign set up a website, and in real time campaign personnel was to check off that an individual voter had appeared and voted. This would allow targeted efforts to contact likely Romney voters that had not yet cast their ballot to remind/encourage them to vote. Sounds pretty good in theory. Except that on election day, the website was pretty much down (or at least inaccessible) the entire time, presumably due to the sudden influx of heavy traffic, which one would think would be expected seeing as how this was a one day, big event. To use the language of one of my old colleagues, is this a "teaching moment". What can we take away from this epic fail to make sure something similar doesn't happen to us on major projects?

Beta testing a "get out the vote" system during a presidential election day is not a good idea. Heh, heh.

First off, allocate expenditures intelligently.  Spend less money on ineffective advertising, and more on IT, especially if you are counting on an IT project the way the campaign said it was.  Secondly, don't talk about how much more awesome you are than the competition at something when you are not.  Thirdly, recognize your limitations, and address them.  Fourth, do some actual load testing.  Fifth, spend some money as mentioned in step one, and make sure that there is plenty of capacity and eliminate potential bottlenecks. Sixth, allocate some time and resources to training, so that you don't have tens of thousands of new users trying to figure software out at the moment it is needed.  That was like a pitcher trying to figure out a fastball while he is standing on the mound in the world series.  Dumb, just dumb.   


Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, be intellectually honest and discard subjectivity in favor of objectivity.  Everyone wants their projects to be successful, but you can't just hope that everything will work out.  But if you follow best practices, do the work thoroughly and professionally, and it probably will.  

Answer this