×

Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

Oregon Sues Oracle For "Abysmal" Healthcare Website

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the finest-consultants-in-the-land dept.

Oracle 212

SpzToid (869795) writes The state of Oregon sued Oracle America Inc. and six of its top executives Friday, accusing the software giant of fraud for failing to deliver a working website for the Affordable Care Act program. The 126-page lawsuit claims Oracle has committed fraud, lies, and "a pattern of activity that has cost the State and Cover Oregon hundreds of millions of dollars". "Not only were Oracle's claims lies, Oracle's work was abysmal", the lawsuit said. Oregon paid Oracle about $240.3 million for a system that never worked, the suit said. "Today's lawsuit clearly explains how egregiously Oracle has disserved Oregonians and our state agencies", said Oregon Atty. Gen. Ellen Rosenblum in a written statement. "Over the course of our investigation, it became abundantly clear that Oracle repeatedly lied and defrauded the state. Through this legal action, we intend to make our state whole and make sure taxpayers aren't left holding the bag."

Oregon's suit alleges that Oracle, the largest tech contractor working on the website, falsely convinced officials to buy "hundreds of millions of dollars of Oracle products and services that failed to perform as promised." It is seeking $200 million in damages. Oracle issued a statement saying the suit "is a desperate attempt to deflect blame from Cover Oregon and the governor for their failures to manage a complex IT project. The complaint is a fictional account of the Oregon Healthcare Project."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

*nelson laugh* (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737089)

HAHA!
I hope they get it good... bastards.

Because they could't sue the Government (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737091)

Place the realm blame where it belongs and leave Oracle alone.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737117)

Yeah. We're so sorry for this obvious shakedown, Oracle. /s

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47737163)

"What procedure was used to select Oracle on the market of solution vendors?"

"Well, their name kind of starts like our name, so we thought they'd be the best for us. We've also heard there's a lot of trees in their software. We like trees."

H1-B and outsource are responsible for this (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737463)

I dare Oracle to audit just exactly who worked on this project - how many H1-B's at Oracle and foreign outsourcing.insourcing was done (probably, to India). I will bet hard $$$ that a majority of the work for Oregon was done this way. What I have seen over and over again is more and more H1-B garbage code put into BASIC infrastructure projects. Oracle and other companies walk away with profit, and we're left holding a bag of garbage.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47737475)

A big part of the blame should go to Oregon for trying to start with a big, complex site. Of all the states that implement Obamacare Insurance Exchanges, Oregon's is widely considered the worst, after spending $240M. Kentucky's is widely considered the best. It was ready on day one, and has run without major problems since. Kentucky spent about $8M, or 3% of what Oregon spent. Software development works best with a small, lean team of good developers. Before embarking on this project, the Oregon governor should have read The Mythical Man Month [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (1, Troll)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#47738169)

A big part of the blame should go to the Democrats in Congress that passed the law requiring the site to begin with.

Oracle should explain that their software accurately depicts the state of the law. It may be an adequate defense.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (1)

rbrander (73222) | about 3 months ago | (#47738359)

I've got a hunch you typed that statement by hitting these keys:

F1 in Congress that passed the law to begin with.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47738395)

A big part of the blame should go to the Democrats in Congress that passed the law requiring the site to begin with.

Except that the site was NOT required. Most states did NOT implement their own site, and either default to the federal site or formed a regional partnership.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (0)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#47738479)

A big part of the blame should go to the failed market and its greedy occupants that cause $1 worth of chemicals to cost more than many people make in a year.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (1)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47738641)

hmmmm...suppose you spend $1 Billion to develop a new drug...just about $1 worth of chemicals per pill. How much are you going to sell it for? Care to make back your investment? Overhead for factories to make it? Promotion so that doctors know about it? Health care for your employees? A retirement plan for your employees?

The drug companies are a bunch of greedy suits. However, attempting to simplify the problem using your reasoning doesn't help anyone.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (2, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#47738863)

How about colchicine? It cost about $8/month. Then, one company did a million dollar study, generally considered to have contributed nothing to medical knowledge, and so got temporary exclusivity from the FDA and suddenly it costs $450 for the same thing.

The $1 cost BTW was already covering the factory, employees, etc. The rest is gravy and marketing.

Much of the research is taken care of by universities operating under a federal grant. By all rights, that research belongs to the people already.

Based on the immensity of the pharmaceutical companies, they aren't exactly losing money.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47738889)

Oh sure, share some blame, that's fine. But that doesn't make Oracle suddenly innocent. Fraud is still fraud, even if you cheat someone dumb.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47737479)

Place the realm blame where it belongs and leave Oracle alone.

Who? Lotus Notes? Bill Gates? Nixon?

This is classic application of Hanlon's Razor: Never ascribe to malice that which can be best explained by incompetence.

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (2)

Dragon Bait (997809) | about 3 months ago | (#47738533)

Place the realm blame where it belongs and leave Oracle alone.

Who? Lotus Notes? Bill Gates? Nixon?

Nixon. I say we blame Nixon. After all, he was the first sitting president to propose national health care [kaiserhealthnews.org] (and of all ironies, Ted Kennedy [washingtonpost.com] helped spike it.)

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738985)

Hmm, Kaiser. Where have I heard that name before? Oh, I remember: in the Nixon tapes when he's discussing HMO's, which in turn created the largest rise in healthcare costs in the entire history of the United States!

Well now that there is sure an unbiased source, yesiree Bob!

Re:Because they could't sue the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737883)

Oracle + Government = Ridiculously Overpriced Shit. It's that simple.

Both sides (0)

war4peace (1628283) | about 3 months ago | (#47737097)

They should both pay each other 100M and be done with it!

Reputation (5, Informative)

Livius (318358) | about 3 months ago | (#47737127)

I don't know if Oregon's suit has merit or not, but that sure sounds like my employer's experience with Oracle.

Re:Reputation (5, Informative)

alx512 (194670) | about 3 months ago | (#47737191)

My employer unfortunately uses Oracle's HR management systems also. Worst piece of enterprise software I've ever seen. I have physical pain any time I have to use it. Their big iron databases used to be the shit, but even those seem to be going the way of the dodo as much cheaper, easier to use options are available these days.

Re:Reputation (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 3 months ago | (#47737399)

Worst piece of enterprise software I've ever seen.

Judging by what you write, Oracle should give your company a whole bunch of red shirts as a freebie. If nothing else, it would be a great example of truth in advertising.

Re:Reputation (3, Insightful)

umdesch4 (3036737) | about 3 months ago | (#47737437)

Have you seen SAP?

Re:Reputation (3, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47739203)

In 2001, I was Avaya's first order on SAP (or so I was told at the time). After delivering the wrong thing 3 times, a tech drove to the depot, and physically selected the correct thing, and hand carried it to the site to install. After the install, relatively easy, once the correct thing was there, the bill was wrong. Eventually, they billed us for $12k for a $110k project (after I sent back the first 4 or so bills for obvious errors). So I paid the $12k, and got the "paid in full" response. Never heard anything to indicate they ever found their error.

I've had multiple people tell me it's unethical to deliberately under-pay, but after months of trying to get a correct bill, should I go to collections over a wrong bill or pay one "in full" to stop the harassment of a billing department that can't get the right numbers?

About 5 years later, I heard is was still wrong more than right, though it did get better. It seemed like it would be difficult to get something so wrong. All the wrong parts showed up. Repeatedly. I saw the "order" and the delivery, and there weren't even the same number of items there, so it wasn't a part number mix up.

Re:Reputation (5, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 3 months ago | (#47737197)

It sounds like Oracle's fucking business model. Overcommit, underbudget, get the job by being the "cheapest". Once the client's committed to your implementation, claim that the project brief was misleading or something and massively jack up the budget or leave the client with a stinking piece of shit.

My university's management, financial and student software was upgraded by Oracle. Something like 70 million dollars later, the web frontend is a complete farce full of atrocious design decisions, confusing options and ridiculous limitations. The employee backend is so complicated and useless that you need a fucking MANUAL to use it, and most people need assistance to do basic tasks such as budgeting their funds.

Re:Reputation (4, Insightful)

Livius (318358) | about 3 months ago | (#47737293)

No, they go one better - be the most *expensive* bid, thereby convincing clueless MBAs of the superiority of your product, and then proceed to overcharge, delay, etc.

Car analogy: They sell you the most expensive car ever. Then tell you the engine costs extra. And then tell you the petrol tank is extra. And by the way don't put regular petrol in it, only aviation fuel. And isn't that logarithmic-scale odometer so much more science-y than those other brands of cars?

Re:Reputation (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 3 months ago | (#47738743)

Well, a log scale odometer would certainly help preserve resale value.

Re:Reputation (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47739217)

And when the car breaks down, you find out that the warranty is void because the tires can only be filled with pure N2, and oxygen in the tires voids the warranty.

And, because the warranty documentation is separate from the manual, it doesn't matter if you read and memorize the manual, you'll never see that suggestion/reocmmendation. Other than the silly "return the car to dealer if the tire pressure is low" comment.

Re:Reputation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738887)

after spending $240M. Kentucky's is widely considered the best. It was ready on day one, and has run without major problems since. Kentucky spent about $8M, or 3% of what Oregon (quote from previous /. comment)

I would say they do it cheap if the above quote is true, if anything should be added to your post it's more likely they 'overcharge' then cheap skate on everything to make the most profit. Which is pretty much what most IT companies do. The governor should be put on the chopping block for making an obviously terrible choice. Again politicians showing how worthless and brainless they really are, how hard would it have been to hire an savvy tech adviser to direct you? I can promise it wouldn't have cost 240+ million for one.

Re:Reputation (3, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 3 months ago | (#47739145)

This is what happens when a customer doesn't want to own the system they are buying. Like a lot of places they probably had MBAs at the top who took the whole "not our core competency" thing too far. Yet again. Sure hire a vendor or vendors. But Own The Fucking System. Don't just let the vendors do what they want. It is a licence to push out shit with no oversight. I don't know for certain that this was the case here but that would be my guess.

Oracle was hired to implement the system and are of course software vendors. Even if it would mean fitting a square peg to a round hole, they'll try to use an all Oracle solution. This was a big enough project that the project management and architecture teams could have been separate from the software vendors. They almost always should be. Them and systems analysts should have been able to keep things in line if it wasn't all run by Oracle. If the implementation team was independent, I think it more likely they would use the right tools for the job. Blame the PHBs in Oregon for hiring Oracle. This should serve as a cautionary tale (which of course will be ignored).

Incidentally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737251)

...taxpayers are always left holding the bag. There are no exceptions.

Re:Reputation (4, Insightful)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 3 months ago | (#47737263)

I don't know if Oregon's suit has merit or not, but that sure sounds like my employer's experience with Oracle.

This is pretty much SOP with any big custom system from a big company. Sure, they'll check off the boxes of the requirements, but it'll never work right until you fork over triple what the original contract was for, for "additional implementation." It's essentially extortion because at that point the organization is so many millions of dollars into it that they're willing to spend millions more to make it functional.

I'm very pleased that Oregon is not succumbing to this extortion and are fighting back. Oracle has claimed in the press that it was because the state added additional requirements midstream, but the problem isn't that they didn't implement those additional requirements, it's that they never delivered a functioning product, thus they did not fulfill a single requirement. Even if "it works" wasn't a specific requirement, it should be implied by the existence of any requirement which in itself requires the system to be functional. I hope Oregon gets back every penny they gave to Oracle, and I hope there's a legal reason they can get some massive penalties too.

Re:Reputation (2)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 3 months ago | (#47737417)

but it'll never work right until...

It'll never work right, period.

FTFY

Re:Reputation (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#47737581)

It's essentially extortion because at that point the organization is so many millions of dollars into it that they're willing to spend millions more to make it functional.

This is a good example of the sunk cost fallacy [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Reputation (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47737757)

This is a good example of the sunk cost fallacy [wikipedia.org] .

"Sunk costs" are often abandoned in the business world, but rarely in the political world. Politicians would rather throw good money after bad than admit that they made a mistake. Sunk costs are usually abandoned only after a change in governing party, so the mistake can then be blamed on the other guys.

Re:Reputation (1)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#47738585)

Similar things happen in business. No manager wants their pet project to actually be declared an expensive failure. They'd rather throw more money at it until it can at least limp out of the starting gate.

Re:Reputation (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | about 3 months ago | (#47738579)

I don't know if Oregon's suit has merit or not, but that sure sounds like my employer's experience with Oracle.

This is pretty much SOP with any big custom system from a big company.

I know that we all like to paint with broad brushes, but back in the late 80s and 90s I worked for a large computer consulting outfit that did a reasonable job of delivering on time and on budget. But of course, it all depends on the individuals involved. The company had done an excellent job of hiring managers that hired technically competent people--and then trained them to estimate high to keep from causing problems later on.

It's funny how on the one hand we like to criticize pointy haired bosses for treating all employees like interchangeable widgets, but then when painting with such broad strokes, we do the same. But then again, if we're talking about Oracle, even if there are competent, well meaning individuals involved, they get over shadowed by a corporate culture of sleaze that starts at the top.

Re:Reputation (4, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47738253)

I don't know if Oregon's suit has merit or not, but that sure sounds like my employer's experience with Oracle.

Mine as well. We have contracts with hundreds of IT companies, and Oracle is by far the worst I've ever dealt with.
A list of things I've witnessed oracle do first hand that make me hate them:
1. Relegate "Bugs" to a "Bug list" that is so long you actually have an account you use to log into it and see the endless list of things wrong with their software they haven't gotten around to fixing yet.
2. Support that's so poor, if you cannot provide them with step by step instructions of exactly how to reproduce it as well as an actual solution to the problem in many cases they will promptly close the ticket and tell you "We were unable to reproduce your issue" I've received that response sometimes within minutes... suggesting they made no attempt at all to look for it. Your local cable company provides better support than oracle.
3. They intentionally deprecate features to try and prevent you from migrating to other systems. APIs, ODBC access, etc... Then offer to export the data for you for insane amounts of money (hundreds of thousands of dollars)
4. They actually sent a trainer to us to train us on how to manipulate their own support organization to work tickets. Seriously, 6hrs on how to get support to work your ticket...
5. With some products they patch, without notice, without testing. I walk in on Monday and find out a patch happened over the weekend I had no idea was going to happen, it brought several applications down. Then, when questioned about it postmortem, they actually said "Why would we notify you of these patches? There is no way they can cause a problem." When I pointed out that they just did, in fact, cause a problem, and that's why we were having this meeting, they said "Well this was a unique situation"
6. The few applications we have that aren't Oracle, keep getting bought by Oracle. Who then fires everyone, sticks their own, horrendous staff in their place and ruins a product we're locked into a 3yr contract for.
7. They have breached our contractually and legal obligated security policies no less than 7 times in the past 2 years. Not minor breaches, major ones. In one case access to hosted services they had was controlled by a whitelist. They decided, again without notice, to introduce a 2nd whitelist of API access, and default it to allow all. As a result access to the API for the service was wide open to the entire internet for months before we found out by accident what they had done. They pointed out that they had made the change public by creating a new webpage documenting the new setting, but no, they hadn't actually informed any customers the page existed and the patch that had been applied to implement the setting had been done so without any notifications being sent to anyone.

I could go on and on... but suffice it to say Oracle is the devil, they hate their customers, want to steel their money and are by far the worst Tech company I've ever dealt with. Burn in hell Oracle.

I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737165)

Can people sue Oracle for "abysmal" exploitation of the legal system?

Re:I wonder... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737245)

Yes, that would most likely be under vexatious litigation.

It is a tough standard to meet, but it can be done.

You can also void a contract under various practices to dispute them as unjust.

Lawsuits (5, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 3 months ago | (#47737173)

I have no doubt at all that Oracle committed fraud and lied a lot. I have no doubt Oregon's project management failed to give adequate oversight to the project, failed to adequately specify the project, and repeatedly changed what little specification they provided.

Neither matters. I have no doubt this lawsuit will ultimately fail, because the Oregon attorney general doesn't have the technical ability to prove the fraud and lies. The state has already proven they don't understand what they're doing. We're about to get a second demonstration.

Good answer! Fraud is their main source of profit? (4, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | about 3 months ago | (#47737357)

Good answer: "... the Oregon attorney general doesn't have the technical ability to prove the fraud and lies. The state has already proven they don't understand what they're doing."

Also, Oracle has been through this perhaps thousands of times. Apparently the major profit center for companies like Oracle is being late and more expensive than predicted. For example, see this quote from the book, Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment [google.com] :

"... a recent General Accounting Office report on U.S. military equipment procurement concluded that only 1% of major military purchases involving high technology were delivered on time and on budget."

That book says the problem is due to a sociological mistake. My understanding is that it is entirely intended, a way of making money from the largely hidden military purchases of the U.S. government. For the U.S. government, killing people is an enormous, extremely profitable business.

Re:Good answer! Fraud is their main source of prof (1)

Doomsought (3407379) | about 3 months ago | (#47737799)

I'd like to see the correlation with moving targets and whether the project originated from the military itself (discretionary spending) or originated from congressional mandate. A few other variables to measure congressional micromanagement would probably make for a very interesting regression line.

Re:Good answer! Fraud is their main source of prof (2)

Tom (822) | about 3 months ago | (#47737831)

Apparently the major profit center for companies like Oracle is being late and more expensive than predicted.

This 100 times. I am amazed again and again that big government projects are almost guaranteed to be over budget and late, and I don't mean 10% in either case. After having this 5000 times, which idiots write the contracts that still don't contain massive penalties for those cases? Grab them by the balls when they promise you the heavens and tell them to deliver or shut up.

Nothing short of corruption can explain this, because I refuse to believe that someone can be this stupid and at the same time still remember how breathing works.

Re:Good answer! Fraud is their main source of prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47739173)

Even when Governments see it coming, and try to get out, they still get bent over [ft.com] .

Re:Good answer! Fraud is their main source of prof (3, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#47738209)

"... a recent General Accounting Office report on U.S. military equipment procurement concluded that only 1% of major military purchases involving high technology were delivered on time and on budget."

That book says the problem is due to a sociological mistake. My understanding is that it is entirely intended, a way of making money from the largely hidden military purchases of the U.S. government. For the U.S. government, killing people is an enormous, extremely profitable business.

The book is wrong, it isn't a "sociological mistake." The problems tend to come from changing requirements (from the gov and events), under bidding (by the company), stop and start funding and various directives (from the Congress), legal challenges from the losing competitors, and the nature of the procurement system.

And no, killing people is not "an enormous, extremely profitable business" for the government. It is quite the opposite.

Correction: (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | about 3 months ago | (#47738735)

I should have said, "an enormous, extremely profitable business for those who control the government".

Re:Good answer! Fraud is their main source of prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47739313)

Oracle has tons of military contracts. You don't have to only make fighter jets or oil wells to get military contracts.

Doesn't matter anymore. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737195)

Larry Ellison just bought Oregon.

Holy crap (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737209)

I'm pretty sure for 240 million I'd be able to do it from my bedroom.

Too many big O's (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737227)

Obama care, Oracle, Oregon... this problem must be non-deterministic political complete

Re:Too many big O's (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#47738219)

That is "Really Big-O" notation, to which you can add, "Oh no!"

Deflect Blame? (5, Insightful)

ZeroSerenity (923363) | about 3 months ago | (#47737229)

"is a desperate attempt to deflect blame from Cover Oregon and the governor for their failures to manage a complex IT project." It shouldn't be their job, that's what they paid you for.

Re: Deflect Blame? (1)

chill (34294) | about 3 months ago | (#47738561)

No, they didn't. Oregon acted as the systems integrator and overall project manager. Oracle was the main contractor but not the integrator.

It's a complot (1)

Teun (17872) | about 3 months ago | (#47737279)

For me as a total but interrested outsider it looks like the closet republican Larry is took his chance to frustrate decent healthcare.

Re:It's a complot (3, Insightful)

sound+vision (884283) | about 3 months ago | (#47737355)

This mishmash of overlapping but non-integrating state, federal, and private health care systems, each party taking their cut and adding another layer of inefficiency, is "decent health care"?

Re:It's a complot (3, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47739293)

It's horrible sub-standard health care, but still better than what came before.

Promised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737283)

Promised software products?

Working with Oracle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737309)

On the one hand, I'm glad someone with deep pockets is going after Oracle. They are a terrible company that screws over their customers and developers. On the other hand everyone knows Oracle is a terrible company so I don't think Oregon is blameless. Taking out a contact with Oracle is like throwing money out the window of a moving car and anyone doing business with Oracle gets what they deserve.

Hire Engineers as Employees. (3, Interesting)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 3 months ago | (#47737327)

I'm starting to think that State, Provincial, Reigonal, Local and Federal governments should Purchase Technologies from companies, and then hire their own Salaried Engineers to actually handle the operations. Stop creating these service contracts and don't let this nonsense go on.

Re:Hire Engineers as Employees. (4, Insightful)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about 3 months ago | (#47737481)

That's what we do with Oracle and we're actually doing pretty well with them. We only let them build the dev environment, train our staff, and create documentation. The other environments are built entirely by the people they trained using the documentation provided, and once we are confident we can rebuild the system even if Oracle vanished off the face of the earth, we send the consultants on their way. This approach should be done with *any* vendor though.

Re:Hire Engineers as Employees. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737959)

I'm starting to think that State, Provincial, Reigonal, Local and Federal governments should Purchase Technologies from companies, and then hire their own Salaried Engineers to actually handle the operations. Stop creating these service contracts and don't let this nonsense go on.

It's a great idea, but really hard to execute well. Having worked on contracts in Salem, it's not a huge town. Attracting talented developers and system administrators in a small market is difficult enough, and is even harder when you're paying them 30-50% under market. Unless they're really committed to government service, it's a tough sell, since you're asking them to move to a market where the government is basically the only employer.

Additionally, how may specialized employees do you really want to hire for 30 years? Once a person enters civil service, they're very hard to get rid of. Classification decisions move very slowly, and many times the public sector is stuck trying to re-tread employees that aren't suited for new tasks. One project might need a dozen top-notch PeopleSoft developers for a few years, another might need PHP developers. These maybe shouldn't be the same people, but they probably have the same public sector classification, and hiring managers often find themselves fighting with the civil service system. You can mitigate some of this by using short-term contract positions, but now you aren't even offering the stability/security of full civil service, so finding qualified resources is even harder.

Oregon DHS/OHA actually tried to serve as the System Integrator on this project, which was part of the problem. The State really didn't have the experience or personnel to manage a team of Oracle sharks. It seems counter intuitive, but a few more independent contractors may have saved a lot of money in this instance.

The blame lies with Oregon (5, Interesting)

Munchr (786041) | about 3 months ago | (#47737343)

I have no love for Oracle, but the blame cannot be placed at their feet. As has been reported in local Oregon and nationwide news, Oracle insisted Oregon hire a project manager and systems integrator, either because the contract did not permit Oracle to fulfill those roles or Oracle was not capable of performing those roles. Oregon refused those requests, despite many warnings from Oracle and Cover Oregon's own director that without such services the site would not be ready to go live. Instead, Oregon placed a gag order on everyone involved in the project to hide the problems from the public. This is very much a problem caused by Oregon, not by any willful fraud by Oracle. This is also SOP for Oregon Government, with just about any project they undertake. (Full disclosure, I am one of many pissed off Oregonians.)

Re:The blame lies with Oregon (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 months ago | (#47737493)

And to top it off, somebody in Oregon selected Oracle to be their vendor in the first place. I'll eagaerly await the replies here from folks whose experience with Oracle was that they were on-time, on-budget, went above-and-beyond in the name of customer service, and were a pleasure to work with. Too bad no company in the entire state of Oregon was qualified to build a database-backed website!

Re:The blame lies with Oregon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737565)

Citation needed.

Re:The blame lies with Oregon (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#47737627)

Oracle insisted Oregon hire a project manager and systems integrator... Oregon refused those requests...

So Oracle took Oregon's money, and the hit on their own reputation. I wonder if it was worth it?

Not all states failed (5, Interesting)

kybred (795293) | about 3 months ago | (#47737351)

Here's a success [medicalnews.md] story about Kentucky's Kynect Exchange.

They need not have worried. Over the past year, Kentucky’s health care website has proved to be a huge success. More than a half-million Kentucky residents have signed up for the Bluegrass State’s version of Obamacare. A majority of Kentuckians approve of it. That this has happened in a deeply red state is unexpected but hardly an accident.

Re:Not all states failed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737641)

Didn't use Oracle, wound up with a functional product. Who'd have ever guessed!

Re:Not all states failed (2)

TechNeilogy (2948399) | about 3 months ago | (#47737729)

I can second this. I have some experience with the Kynect product. There were (and still are), a few glitches, but these seem to be relatively minor. One key factor in the success was training and supporting "Kynect-ors" in helping people use the site. These "Kynect-ors" had also had priority access to varying levels of technical support to help iron out glitches when they did occur. Nothing's ever perfect in politics, healthcare, or programming, and I'm sure there are a few "horror stories," but overall, the Kynect roll-out was very impressive.

Re:Experience with Kynect (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738791)

I'll "third" it. My wife needed to use Kynect when I retired. At first there were several bumps. Eventually she was put into contact with a "manager" who looked at the system output for her case, said "nope, not your fault, that looks like a system error", and promptly while my wife was on the telephone with her, over-rode the system to correct it. Things have been fine since.

I suspect Kentucky isn't rich or pretentious enough to try to do everything Oregon might. For development work, it's not a bad mindset.

The Tribe of Madoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737363)

What else do you expect from these dual citizens whose tribe has produced the biggest crooks of history?

Re:The Tribe of Madoff (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47739339)

Madoff is a dual citizen? Of what?

typical (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737385)

My onetime employer had Oracle come in and take over managing their entire employee database system.

At one point a manager asked what it would take to have the letter that the system created to be sent out accepting a new employee changed to add a yellow hilight over a couple of important lines in the Word document.

They told him it would take six hours of programmer time at $200/hour.

He bought a 69 cent hilighter instead.

Re:typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738153)

This does not take into account the labor costs

Re:typical (2)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#47738727)

It will take a lot of new hires for intern time spent with a hiliter to add up to $1200.

Re:typical (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47739363)

That's cheap. I tried to add a line to a JDE database, and was told it would be $20k. Yes, having a pull down box go from 1,2,3,4,or 5 to 1,2,3,4,5, or 6 costs $20k from the support that the company I worked for purchased. $1200 was cheap for such a minor change.

absurd (1, Redundant)

wizden (965907) | about 3 months ago | (#47737387)

240 million dollars? For a website? This is amazingly stupid. That is a ridiculous amount of money for the functionality they're looking for.

Re:absurd (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47737503)

Nope. A website that has to hook into a bunch of poorly maintained, poorly documented databases. That's the hard part.

That they screwed up the web site portion of it is typical Oracle however. Unfortunately, like in any major disaster, there are going to be a number of interlocking pieces, numerous bad decisions and enough legal boilerplate to cover the world ten feet deep.

The only people standing at the end will be the lawyers.

Re: absurd (3, Insightful)

wizden (965907) | about 3 months ago | (#47737569)

I understand the challenges but I maintain that it's not 240 million bucks worth of difficult.

Re:absurd (2)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 3 months ago | (#47738493)

Nope. A website that has to hook into a bunch of poorly maintained, poorly documented databases. That's the hard part.

This kind of crap is par for the course. I've had to figure out poorly designed databases without documentation, and it didn't cost millions of dollars to do that. Admittedly, insurance company big iron is probably much hairier to deal with than what I'm used to... but $240 million worth? Sorry, I just don't see how this adds up.

Oracle sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737389)

To bad slashdot comment sections can't be used in court.....

Obviously the technical community really hates Oracle. I personally do. They squeeze people for $40K over 1 more CPU. The whole thing needs to come down in price by about 20 times before I'd ever recommend it.

Only thing is their DB *does* do some cool things nobody else's does. Until you're a PhD level Database guru like one of the guys I worked with who explained all the little "differences", it's not apparently obvious what they do better.

But that doesn't have anything to do with allowing extortion level tactics. I hate this company with a passion!

Re:Oracle sucks. (5, Interesting)

umdesch4 (3036737) | about 3 months ago | (#47737473)

I'm not a PhD level database guru, but my career has been almost entirely working with databases over the last 20 years. I can say that the underlying technology of the Oracle RDBMS itself is light years beyond other systems. I'm not an advocate of anything Oracle has done in other arenas over the last 10-15 years, but I experience an existential crisis every day in my job where I love working within an Oracle database, but hate pretty much everything about the company that owns it.

Re:Oracle sucks. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737961)

Oracle's DB software is not "lightyears" better, it is an incremental improvement over most competitors for most uses.
However, the usability is SO BAD that your typical company cannot correctly configure their systems to take advantage of Oracle's software - resulting in a final product that is no better, or even worse, than if they had used a competitor.

Re:Oracle sucks. (3, Informative)

umdesch4 (3036737) | about 3 months ago | (#47738025)

Too bad you posted AC, otherwise I could make sure I never hire you. Sorry man, but the last 10 companies I worked for got pretty big things done with Oracle DBs, and were able to host several-terabyte databases doing things that even DB2 would choke on, never mind MySQL or SQL Server, or any other DB I've worked with. I've worked with more companies that have migrated *to* Oracle because they outgrew what they were using, than the other way around. There's always much gnashing of teeth, and angst over going with such a reprehensible company's product...but that's been my experience at least.

Re:Oracle sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738553)

Several terabytes? Color me unimpressed. The fact these other companies 'outgrew' the OSS solutions meant they didn't understand how to use them.

Re:Oracle sucks. (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47739385)

I've stayed away from that side of IT, but I've heard it isn't size, it's performance. *any* database can keep up with a 2 TB database, even a flat-file. The trick is to do so with 10k lookups, and 1k writes per second (or some other number, I'm just pulling some out of thin air). Oracle claims some uptime and resiliency that's impossible with "standard" databases as well.

Driving home the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737415)

I have a lot of experience with government customers, and in 95% of cases they don't understand whatever they want and what stands behind it. Few have PMP knowledge or even certificates, many delegate project management to the contractors, like company I'm working at. And this is ok, but in this case it looks like they tried to manage it themselves, failed, and shifting blame to vendor. Management has to speak certain language to the vendors, and this language could only be learned over years of experience.
In this case state want their inability to manage complex projects will be proven in court.
Also worth mentioning, that all of failed projects are flawed from the start, undersized, without a scope with vague contact and so on.

Re:Driving home the point (4, Informative)

wizden (965907) | about 3 months ago | (#47737451)

How is building a website with a database back end a complex project? How does 240 million get spent and they couldn't afford a project manager? I know there are ridiculous integration requirement but this isn't exactly rocket surgery.

Deflect blame? (3, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 months ago | (#47737425)

"from Cover Oregon and the governor for their failures to manage a complex IT project."

Err, excuse me - if Oracle are the contractor its up to THEM to manage the fecking project. Why the hell should the governor be hands on with this? Do they think he's also down at every roadworks checking the spades?

Usually when you hire a big company like Oracle you give them the requirements, pay them money and they're supposed to deliver the goods, so Oracle whining that they apparently weren't given good enough management is pathetic.

I wonder what are the odds they used some cheap indian labour who can just about switch on a computer much less deliver a working program. Sorry if some people find that racist, but indian coders in my experience are universally bloody useless.

Re:Deflect blame? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 3 months ago | (#47737543)

Err, excuse me - if Oracle are the contractor its up to THEM to manage the fecking project.

If they're left to do so, yes. I suspect they weren't, not fully. there was constant meddling and scope change and feature creep and "wait, we have THIS data too" shit being flung around like there's no tomorrow.

Usually when you hire a big company like Oracle you give them the requirements, pay them money and they're supposed to deliver the goods

Absolutely correct. In theory. In practice, I'm yet to see a project involving multiple people which goes through its lifecycle like theory says it should. No wonder most wildly successful projects are being handled by a one-man team.

I wonder what are the odds they used some cheap indian labour who can just about switch on a computer much less deliver a working program. Sorry if some people find that racist, but indian coders in my experience are universally bloody useless.

Fairly small. They used mixed teams, which is actually worse because of constant culture clashes.

Authority grant (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 3 months ago | (#47739061)

If Oracle doesn't have the authority to compel teams of government employees to finalize their requirements, then they by definition Oracle isn't running the project.

Re:Deflect blame? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47739375)

Typically there needs to be a project manager on the client end, as well as the vendor. That way the vendor PM has someone to talk to when they want to clarify requirements, discuss training and deployment, propose changes, etc. And there's someone to filter the idiotic feedback that comes from the.users and their management.

If Oregon was too cheap to fill that role despite the vendor asking for it, they deserve what they got.

Speaking Truth To Power... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737523)

Q: How many Oregonians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Five. One to change the bulb and four more to chase off the Californians who have come up to relate to the experience.

Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47737613)

they read the EULA.

An Oregonian (3, Interesting)

meerling (1487879) | about 3 months ago | (#47737625)

I'm an Oregonian, and there has been very little information about what actually happened other than the corporate/govenment spin weasels point fingers and whining about the other guy.

To be honest, our state can certainly screw up just like all the rest and on various levels. Just google Dynamite Whale for one example.
On the other hand, my experiences with Oracle and what I've heard from other people that had to deal with them, are far less than stellar.

Right now I'm betting some politician made some stupid mistakes that Oracle didn't bother to even attempt to correct because all they could see was $$. Which of course was compounded by Oracle then going on in a slipshod milk the government cash cow way. The end result being this F-N mess.

How to recover from this? Honestly, I don't really know, especially because we haven't been told what the exact problems are with the system. Sure, we've been told lots of the symptoms, but not the actual problems. (The difference between someone saying my car makes this "kchunk-wnnnng noise", vs "my car's timing belt is slipping".)
One suggestion that might be necessary is to throw out the old code, and go talk to someone with a good working version and license that one for a reasonable fee then rebrand and localize it. (Maybe Kentucky's version.) And no, a reasonable fee isn't what they paid for it if it's something they had developed. Maybe there are other states with lousy versions, and they could all license a good working version. It would sure as hell simplify things going forward for all of them.

Java (0)

buckfeta2014 (3700011) | about 3 months ago | (#47737837)

Can we sue oracle for a shitty Java? If only...

Big Companies and Government Contracts (2)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 months ago | (#47737987)

What you get with Big Companies is lots of Lawyers. There is more money to be made doing exactly what the contract says then doing the job correct. If you do exactly what you are asked to do in the worst way possible you get paid once to do this and keep getting paid to support and modify.

Yacht pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738269)

How much of a ship can uncle Larry buy for $220 million? I bet a nice one with big sails, crows nest and working cannons.

Arrr mates.. raise the blue peter and set sail for fail

Re:Yacht pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738331)

Larry is beyond that, he's now in the market for tropical islands with five star resort hotels and championship golf courses.

Oregon IT mgmt was great (1)

cstec (521534) | about 3 months ago | (#47738695)

As a consultant I worked on Oregon's Medicaid system, directly with Oregon senior IT management. It was the first government work I'd done after swearing I never would again 20 years previous, for reasons many are familiar with.

It was shocking; those folks were top notch! No drama, no politics, no crap - just smart people who came to work to get things done, and did it well. I actually looked forward to meetings with the Oregon team because they were that sharp.

I can't say how many of those people might be there now, but knowing them they would have managed their successions too. If those folks think Oracle failed, not only did Oracle probably fail hard, but they will have that fail documented, down to every dotted i and crossed t. Those folks should have been working in the valley.

Blame the cook, not the oven. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47738917)

Oracle is just a DB. In a website built over a database, the database is just a tool, you can hardly blame it for anything.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?