Code Red

The cover of the March 10, 2014 issue of the TIME magazine was called “Code Red”. The cover story announces: “How an unlikely group of high-tech wizards revived President Obama’s troubled HealthCare.gov website.” As the topic, Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is very controversial in this country, I want to point out that this blog is not about the merits of this new law. It is about one certain aspect in particular that was critical in this successful “rescue mission.”

Well, you might have already guessed it, one of the first things that those high-tech wizards did to determine what kind of problems they are dealing with was to create a dashboard. “Among many jaw-dropping aspects of what we found, as one put it – was that the people running HealthCare.gov had no dashboard.” When the website was launched, nobody knew how many people were using the site, the response times for various click-throughs were unknown and it was not clear where the traffic was getting tied up. I don’t know about you, but those are the things that I would like to know if I were to launch my own website. One more thing worth mentioning is that those tech wizards built a dashboard in about 5 hours.

Of course there were other mechanisms put in place for this rescue mission, but a dashboard was put in place right away and was an essential part of recognizing the scope of the problems. Based on the dashboard, the high tech wizards could make a decision about whether the website could be fixed or not. We all know at the end the website was improved to a point where millions of people were able sign up for health insurance.

You probably agree with me that for a project of this magnitude, a dashboard is vital to the success of the project. But, what about other projects that are smaller in size? We live in an era where there is an overload of data and the best way of “slicing and dicing” data is with visualization tools. So my argument is no matter what size of the project, dashboards can help you to get a high level of understanding your data very quickly and, as pointed out in the example above, dashboards can help you pinpoint problems in a very dynamic way.

By the way, I am pretty sure that with the right tool, those tech wizards could have created that dashboard in half of the time. 

Aziz Sanal – Technical Consultant, iDashboards

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