It is high time for the government to step in to assure us of this essential service. Of course, since the government is largely in the hands of teabaggers, it is unlikely to happen. Having Google get into the urban cable business here in New York would at least improve competition, if they did not collude with the present monopolists.
I don't think there was a real System Integrator on the whole project. The guys at CMS were out of their depth. They had their doubts about the delivery date quite early. But as we all know, the customer manager and the salesmen have the last word on that! Responsibility without power leads to insanity.
The CGI contract was apparently based on the ongoing contract for IT services, based on an older RFP. (The same sort of thing goes on in NYC, for instance. You have to use on of the short list of pre-qualified contractors.) It appears that CGI were responsible for "the website", which to my mind is only part of the project. But integration with the middleware, back end, and inter-system communications is SOMEONE'S responsibility. That is why there is all this finger-pointing.
It appears also that CGI were more or less successful in the smaller implementations by the states that took responsibility. Possibly their management skills were spread too thin. Well, it all seems to be more or less working now, which is a great accomplishment. Thanks to all who participated over many sleepless nights!
The point is not that you have to produce a document. You really have to find out what the project is. One of my jobs back when I was a consultant was to help produce a Request for Proposal for the US Navy. Now that was a document! Even for that, I had to find out what we were trying to buy and what the reasonable shape of it would be.
But you are quite right about bloat, lard, narcissism, and petty bureaucracy. The worst thing is that at some level you run into management who have no idea of what they are going to need, because they don't use it anyway. But they feel threatened by the people who DO know what they need, so you don't get to interview them.
Not really having project management is what made Healthcare.gov such a fiasco. Probably CGI Federal had the wrong kind of managers to herd the cats that were the subcontractors. They may not have really understood testing, which was critical in this multiple-system case. Test planning is really boring but can't be skipped. Huffing over the documentation doesn't really help unless it is test planning documentation, but I bet it wasn't. Corporate-speak loses something in translation.
If buildings were built this way we would all be living in mud huts. Well, maybe not, but nobody would have built a cathedral or a skyscraper this way.http://news.slashdot.org/story/13/12/30/2219243/us-requirement-for-software-dev-certification-raises-questions#
"Between 60 and 80 per cent of all business transactions performed worldwide are processed—very effectively and efficiently—by COBOL programs running on mainframes. Within the financial industry (banks and insurance), COBOL is used extensively to process the vast majority of their transactions."
I stopped writing COBOL in about 1985, but we were smart people, and our code was pretty good. It has lived all this time. Most of the new wave crap I have been involved in since has drifted off somewhere. It was relatively easy to create, but the technologies changed so fast that most of it was ephemeral. I bet some of my CICS is still running!
Odd that it didn't have a report divider cover sheet, though.
Nothing good happens without analysis and specifications up front.
Frequently the consulting company analysts are more interested in the user interface, where very little happens! But that is the sexy part, of course.