It wasn’t so much that the new app that the Iowa Democratic Party had planned to use to report its caucus results didn’t work. It was that people were struggling to even log in or download it in the first place. After all, there had never been any app-specific training for his many precinct chairs.
No training? This points to a lack of common sense and systems analysis at the start of the project. How was this missed?
Further, they likely had not created use cases, which would have caught the next set of failures.
So last Thursday Mr. Bagniewski, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, Iowa’s most populous, decided to scrap the app entirely, instructing his precinct chairs to simply call in the caucus results as they had always done.
The only problem was, when the time came during Monday’s caucuses, those precinct chairs could not connect with party leaders via phone. Mr. Bagniewski instructed his executive director to take pictures of the results with her smartphone and drive over to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters to deliver them in person. She was turned away without explanation, he said.
I live in the state that featured Cover Oregon, a $450 million health exchange that never enrolled a single individual subscriber. It was a complete failure. Healthcare.gov received most of the media attention concerning large government failed software projects but several state projects also failed.
Both health exchange fiascos – and the Iowa Caucus disaster – point to over reliance on software and an assumption that more tech is always better. Tech can make things better, but only when qualified people are involved in all aspects of the project.
Update – my guess was correct says the NY Times:
Shadow was also handicapped by its own lack of coding know-how, according to people familiar with the company. Few of its employees had worked on major tech projects, and many of its engineers were relatively inexperienced.
Only 25% of precinct chairs were able to successfully install the app. Colossal failure. The system relied, in part, on “security by obscurity”, which never works.
Update: “They” have quite a history with failed software development. The Associated Press said it could not name a winner of the Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses.