On the DEO, Deloitte and when good IT programs go bad

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For the past several weeks, there has been press hit after press hit on the Department of Economic Opportunity’s new unemployment compensation system website. 

DEO had outsourced to Deloitte Consulting to revamp the website, and depending upon who you ask, the blame varies from Deloitte to DEO. One thing is for certain: the launch has been less than perfect. 

Some say this is Deloitte’s failure, some say it is the nature of the beast with a project like this, some say policy changes have led to problems, while others say lack of training of state employees is the problem. Some folks just blame Rick Scott.

Even with enough blame to go around, here’s what’s not clear: The DEO has seemingly been fueling the fire and causing these press stories to continue with their rapid-fire (read: shoot first and strategize later) approach.  They have thrown around blame, expressed shame of sorts in their comments and have even thrown their vendor (who ironically cannot defend its own work and company because of its state contract) under the bus at every chance.  

The number one rule in crisis communications (and trust me this is a crisis communications situation for DEO and by relation, the governor) is to manage the situation and quiet the press.  Shut down the crisis, make a public statement that you are looking carefully at this, are assessing the situation and assure the public you are doing everything possible to remedy the problem in an expedient manner.  THEN, go behind closed doors and let someone have it, be it the vendor, or state employees responsible for training or whoever is either singularly or collectively to blame.

Unfortunately, the opposite is being done by DEO and now Democrats have seized control of the situation and are using this to attack the governor.  

It’s still not clear why someone hasn’t taken DEO by the neck and said: handle your dirty laundry behind closed doors and shut down this press nightmare!

Bashing the vendor that DEO hired does not help them, placing blame and making veiled threats of fines does not help get the system up and fully functional.  What does work; however, is figuring out exactly what the problems are and creating a plan to fix them. 

Personally, any IT vendor doing business with the state is crazy.  No matter what you do, the goal line will also be moved and there will always be state employees who kick you when you have a problem or make a mistake that is common in these types of gigantic technical projects – oh, and by the way, you can’t defend yourself. 

And while this Deloitte project has experienced some problems – especially in the initial roll-out phases – they’ve also demonstrated some successes in Florida, as well as other states. 

In New Mexico for example – where they did have roll out problems – they are now reporting the system has led to reductions in fraud and overpayments. Read about it here

Deloitte also just recently rolled out a large project for DCF – that we haven’t seen in the press, since it’s been largely successful.  

But I digress. 

Here is my suggestion if the governor’s office, the Scott campaign and the DEO are interested – stop the blame game and just lock everyone in a room and hash out the fixes.  People need their unemployment compensation benefits and Governor Scott cannot afford any more bad press.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.