A small state shows big government how to build online services

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Marketing Strategist

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A small state shows big government how to build online services

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Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the passing of Obamacare and just 173 days since the Healthcare.gov site was launched.

Back in October, our own Juan Gonzalez walked us through the website launch fiasco laying out key areas of failure and its big liability:

"...these Big Organizations never stood a chance and were set up for failure. Smaller, more agile, and nimbler technologies and processes could have prevented these problems which now threaten the success of the President's legacy-defining legislation."

Let's consider the small, at least relative to the US Federal government: Connecticut. It's a place that knows insurance. It's also a place with a successful health exchange site, turned licensable solution that could power your own state's health exchange site in the future.

Why should you care?

Beyond the obvious benefits to Connecticut's residents, their success is an example of EchoDitto’s core principles.

1) Start smaller, test often, and phase in more complicated development.

Whereas Healthcare.gov went live with about two weeks of testing, Connecticut reportedly started their testing in October 2012, allowing for nearly 10 months of continuous testing.

Connecticut also delayed their rollout of a Spanish language version of the site until just recently. While it would be speculative to suggest the phased rollout lead to better testing or more focus on base elements during the initial phases, it is a positive sign of clear developmental priorities—your biggest weapon for hitting any deadline.

2) If you build it, you need to promote it.

In recent weeks, Healthcare.gov has actually stepped up their game in this regard as well. Who doesn't love Between two Ferns? With campaigns for television, billboards, radio, and more, the CFO of Connecticut's health exchange estimated they'd spend about $19 million on marketing. What's important isn't the dollar value—thought it's impressive—it's that each campaign is targeted at a specific audience through a specific medium. There is no marketing silver bullet.

3) Digital complements, but does not replace, efforts on the ground.

In addition to their advertising buys, Connecticut's marketing strategy included a plan to knock on 120,000 doors (twice), placing physical "pop-up shops" in two of Connecticut's largest cities, and murals. Yes, murals.

4) Transparency and honesty in all things.

On top of being one of the few sources willing to give real sign-up figures, Connecticut's exchange invites the public to attend open meetings—and publishes the resulting materials and notes online. It's helped to silence critics and stands in stark contrast to other exchanges reporting metrics like page views, but no sign ups.

In reality these ideas are easy to talk about, but can be hard to deliver upon. Like, really hard. But when contrasted with the failures of Healthcare.gov, Connecticut shows us it's not about size but about planning and execution.

Image by Nicolas Raymond