High-level IT consultant on Cover Oregon: 'They didn't know what they were doing'

High-level IT consultant on Cover Oregon: 'They didn't know what they were doing'
This is a still image from one of the Cover Oregon television ads running on local TV stations. According to the ad agency that created the commercials, the two most well-known ads cost between $100,000 and $160,000 to make.

PORTLAND, Ore. – An IT consultant with 20 years’ experience as a software engineer, project manager and analyst said his careful review of the Cover Oregon website project shows a team out of touch with current best-practices.

“They didn’t know what they were doing,” said senior project manager Joe Butson. “And it’s really, really clear Cover Oregon’s IT board didn’t have the governance experience required for a strategic IT implementation.”

The KATU Investigators asked Butson to review the nearly two dozen quality-assessment reports delivered to the state by contractor Maximus, as well as other documents and reporting.

READ: Here are four reasons the Cover Oregon collapse matters to everyone.

Butson said one detail from KATU’s story Monday was particularly troubling.

The story recounts an email from project CIO Carolyn Lawson to Bruce Goldberg, who at the time was her boss at the Oregon Health Authority and is now the director of Cover Oregon. In the email, she directs him to a link at “The Solution Factory” – a site hosted by software contractor Oracle.

“If you are showing something that’s hosted outside the state’s own environment, that’s your first clue,” Butson said. “Their site should be hosted by the state, not by the vendor. It has to run in the state’s environments.

“It is clear by the lack of results that the Oracle ‘solution factory’ approach has been a debacle. It was likely leveraged to create a false sense of progress.”

Butson’s 20-year career has included stretches as a project manager for Nike, AT&T, Wells Fargo and the City of Toronto. One of his specialties is “Agile” development – the method that’s replaced “waterfall” development as industry best-practice, and the approach Cover Oregon said it was using.

“They were using terminology for their phases that would lead you to believe they belong to an outdated approach from 10 years ago, and they were using them incorrectly” Butson said. “They called it Agile but it wasn’t. It was ad-hoc waterfall.

“I could just tell by looking at it that they were just fooling themselves. If they were using Agile, by now they’d be done.”

KATU’s report Monday centered on allegations brought to former state Rep. Patrick Sheehan, who brought concerns of fraud to the FBI.

A source told Sheehan that project managers showed the federal government a dummy version of the website that misrepresented the project’s progress in order to keep federal grant money coming in.

Butson said there are any number of ways it would be possible to show fake progress.

Still, Butson said, the team involved in federal testing should’ve been able to sniff out any problems.

“It’s like the blind leading the blind,” Butson said.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: