The Emperor’s New Website: How Hans Christian Andersen can help us see the central role denial & unreasonableness have likely played in Healthcare.gov and other failed tech projects.


By Sharon Herstein, PMP, CSM, CSP 

New York, USA

What is most astonishing to me about the recent Healthcare.gov discussion is the seemingly universal acceptance that large scale tech projects are doomed to fail.

As someone whose primary function it is in organizations to establish realistic timeframes relative to the size of the project and subsequently report on the status, I think I know why this perception has been so widely adopted.  Because it’s all too often true.  But it’s due to (corporate) human nature – not the technology. And it doesn’t have to be this way…if we can change behaviors on both sides.

In the role of Emperor we have Executive Sponsors of tech projects who often come to the table with a fixed need and a fixed must-have-by date.

Often the need is too large to accommodate the must-have date; too large + too soon = failure.

The Emperor’s ministers are the tech teams who have learned over years of tech implementations that there is always a must-have-by date associated with tech projects.  They have also learned that providing an estimate which exceeds this must-have-by date makes them appear to be less than team players or, even worse, poor performers.

With the honesty and practicality of the fable’s Child, it is the duty of the Project Manager to report the truth about the project’s state.  But when the truth is either unattainable or unacceptable, the role of the Project Manager is rendered useless (but not blameless).


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About the Author

flag-usaSharon Herstein PMP, CSM, CSP

New York, USA

Sharon Herstein is a Web Developer turned Project Manager and has been practicing technical project management across industries for the past 10 years.  She specializes in creating efficiencies and scalability for start-ups and mature organizations alike; relying upon deep theoretical understanding of both Waterfall and Agile to create practical applications per project.

Her career as a Web Developer began at iVillage.com and she has most recently managed projects for IAC/InterActiveCorp and New York Times Digital.

Sharon may be contacted at [email protected]