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Has quality gone out the window?

Posted by gregwarner, 03 January 2012 · 1012 views

My assistant has been on the phone all morning, trying to get through to the state's Medicaid technical support staff, only to be greeted with a busy signal every time.

We arrived here after a long day yesterday, in which we discovered the state had pushed out an update to their Medicaid billing software over the weekend. Yes, over the Dec. 30-Jan. 1 weekend. The same weekend when nobody was at work. When we arrive back on Monday, we find that we cannot bill for any of our services until we update our software to the latest version.

Except the update was broken.

That's right, the update that the state published on Dec. 30 was in fact broken. It simply wouldn't run. We tried calling their tech support yesterday, but they weren't there. They were closed.

They were closed on the day after they pushed out a mandatory, broken update.

Now, the issue of actually being present the day after you push out an update to support it is one matter entirely, but I wanted to address the 2nd, completely different matter:

The broken update should never have been released.

Why is it that such poor quality coding is tolerated, especially by a government agency? Whatever happened to unit tests and thorough code reviews?

My cynical side thinks this has something to do with the state contracting with the lowest bidder to have the software written. HP was the company that got that contract.

So anyway, we'll just go back to trying desperately to get our call through among the hundreds of other calls they're likely receiving today from clinics all over the state. Gotta start getting used to hearing that busy signal.

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Unfortunately, it's really easy to "forget" basic issues, like 64bit vs 32bit, XP vs Vista/7, including a DLL update, pushing the update with proper (administrator) credentials, etc, etc, etc.

Then there's the fact that EVERY update should have the ability to be pushed out in a controlled manner that is validated. Having an external entity update unvalidated software is a violation of some industries' government requirements. It amazes me that this would have been done without the software company losing their state contract.
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From what I was told by my supers, the update was created in order to bring the software up to compliance with some new laws taking effect Jan. 1. The update was pushed out on Dec. 30, which leads me to believe it was rushed since they waited until the last minute, but then they weren't there to support it Jan. 2.

We finally solved the issue. A SQL query in the update was causing a memory error, and after some digging and working with their tech support, we found that by running an "archive" within the program, it would solve the issue. Apparently some of their queries were not written with space optimization in mind, so with a full database, it couldn't allocate enough memory to perform those queries. The archive utility moves some of the older records out of the database file into another file. After we did that, the update would run correctly. They use MS Access as their database backend.

Still, some sort of error checking within the update and perhaps a user friendly warning message would have been nice. I don't use the software on a daily basis, so I wasn't aware it had an "archive" function. :)
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Wait, the use MS Access as their database backend, but we're supposed to act like they're an enterprise class software developer? Using Access for their backend would have disqualified them for me at the bidding stage.
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I know. The analogy I made to explain this was if I paid a contractor to build me a house, and the contractor used Tinker Toys as the structural frame of the house.
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That's about it. *sigh*
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I think that quality really got out the window because i am experiencing it .
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Yet indie developers seem to be fine using hardened industrial strength back-ends? Funny the way the world works...
I like your analogy.
Mine would be "It's like releasing a professional grade instruction manual printed on the back of old reports".
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