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Several Factors Hobbled MNsure From the Start

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The news forced the state to move immediately from planning the site's operational processes to building software, Baden said. That also prompted the state to take the lead role on the project from Maximus.

"What [the process planning] wasn't allowing us to accomplish was the development of the system," Baden said. "We had to focus like a laser to get the system built."

He said it was a positive turning point for the project.

"We really got narrowly focused and the [vendor] teams really ignited and started working together," Baden said.

The “Famous 55’ Baden says his team put in a heroic effort in the following months. But internal documents show the project was in trouble well before the Oct. 1 deadline.

MNsure commissioned a series of progress reports starting in the spring of 2013. In the first report, outside firm Software Engineering Services found that more than half of MNsure's Quality Assurance tasks were rated unsatisfactory. By the time the site went live, four of these tasks would still be marked red.

Six months later, by the time the site was live, four of the five were still unsatisfactory.

The documents are revealing, said Krigsman, the IT specialist who reviewed the reports for MPR News.

"The quality assurance is really screwed up," he said.

In general, the reports show that "there are lots and lots of problems related to how the project is being managed," Krigsman said.

The reports also show that MNsure officials launched the website well aware there were problems with the Curam software.

A browser problem would eventually prove especially vexing for some users even after the website's launch.

In fact, MNsure officials knew there were problems with the Curam software as early as May 2013, Baden said.

"I call them the famous list of 55," Baden said. "We had 55 issues with Curam."

Starting then, Baden said one of IBM's top officials visited St. Paul regularly to whittle down the list. While the list of Curam problems fluctuated over the summer, Baden said some issues remained when MNsure launched.

A month ago, a MNsure review conducted by consulting firm Optum found that the Curam software had 108 defects - more than double any other vendor.

DESPERATELY SEEKING DATA

MNsure has so far paid nearly $400,000 for three independent progress reports.

But MNsure board chairman Brian Beutner said he was only vaguely familiar with the reports when asked about them last month. He said he wasn't aware of the problems outlined in the reports, either.

"Why did I not know ... management was a concern? I'm not seeing the reports," Beutner said. "It's not being brought up, and part of that is you rely on management to make the judgment call."

Wed, Mar 12 2014

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