What could go wrong?

The State of Oregon threw $100 million at some new computer software to run the unemployment system. Guess how it's going.

"Their phone lines are busy for the entire business day for 2-and-a-half days," said Kier. "Those are not people having a hard time learning a new system. Those are people telling you the system does not work. It's broken."...

Another Oregonian who wishes to remain anonymous said he spent 10 hours on the phone trying to receive benefits. He said this problem also only started for him after the update.

"Monday, I had spent about three hours trying to contact them on hold. Tuesday, I spent about three hours on hold in the morning, and then, four hours in the afternoon," he said. 

I wonder how long it will be before somebody hacks into the new system and steals everbody's identity.  I hope the state does better in that department than it did over at the DMV. This year lots of Oregonians are hearing from the IRS that there are people trying to hijack their tax accounts. Could last year's DMV breach have something to do with it? We'll probably never know for certain. But the whole tech thing in Salem sure seems cursed.


  1. The major problem with a government bidding system isn’t finding the company with the low bid. It’s having the specs designed and the selection made by competent staff. Key word is competent.

    1. Yeah, it turns out that if you treat anyone working for government as if they have an infectious disease and deserve nothing but contempt, those who can grab higher paying gigs in industry find it pretty easy to make the choice to work in industry and the public gets left with mostly those folks who couldn’t get a bigger gig on Broadway. Makes it hard for public agencies to find those competent folks. The war toys parts of government has less of this problem because the really big toys are government gigs only; but IT is pervasive and jobs in IT are available anywhere.

      Oregon is persistently crippled in IT systems and acquisitions because it’s a small, small buyer fish in a sea of massive buyers and a lot of sharks who know how to prey on the small fish who lack the technical and legal chops to defend themselves.

    2. This isn't a small dollar issue. We're commenting on a $100 million dollar agreement. My team recently got a $450k+ IT project with the city.

      I sell IT services and what I've observed over and over again from Oregon, Portland, Multnomah County, and even City of Seattle and King County - they all have a crazy idea that no off the shelf software will ever work for their requirements.

      Like, I helped a suburb in Portland implement a new analytics tool for budget forecasting. We ported the old system (mostly excel spreadsheets) to the new system and called it good, took under a month and was delivered on time under budget. Wham, bam, finished.

      Portland doesn't want to port a old system, they need to go into a discovery phase and a change management process for 6 months. Meetings get delayed, staff become unavailable, nothing seems to be a priority. They never want an affordable $20k option when you can request $1.8 million dollars and spend it over 2 years.

      If you really want to see the mess, figure out how long it took for each municipality to adopt Office 365. Portland started in 2015 and forecasted it to take 5 years, and I think today it's still technically on-going. The guy leading the O365 migration at City of Seattle explain to me that nothing the city does is comparable to any other city, so everything has to be done from scratch. Yet, they were taking notes from Portland and using it as a model.

      It's incompetence and corruption, not small dollars.

  2. They've wasted decades not modernizing so the updates are nearly impossible to pull off without scrappy and starting over.


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