CGI Fiddles While the ACA Site Burns

by sam on October 23, 2013

I was curious about the stealthy prime contractor behind the Affordable Health Care website, what with all the negative attention it has been garnering with the so-called Obamacare portal.   So far CGI appears to be a poster child for bad crisis communications.

CGI is rightfully proud of its torrid growth by virtue of a string of acquisitions.  As someone experienced in advising technology companies, I recall some reputable names that CGI has folded into its IT conglomerate.  Logica, a once prominent software house, comes to mind.

The internal focus on building a cohesive team from a diverse set of corporate cultures is laudable. In fact, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto-based company’s “hometown” paper, covered the welcome party for all the new employees it brought into the fold.

Morale-building events are great. Yet the company seems to ignore external criticism coming from major media like The Washington Post, which shone a light on the company with a provocative headline, Meet CGI Federal, the company behind the botched launch of . WashPost writer Lydia dePillis found an internal source indicating management is giving the fiasco short shrift:

CGI’s leadership is really excited about the health-care work, and wants everyone to think it’s going okay. Last week, they held an annual meeting with a dinner reception at a nearby Marriott. “They addressed some of the health-care exchange things that people have been hearing on the news,” the staffer recalled. “Vague things about how health care is changing in the U.S. and how CGI is going to be at the forefront of that. ‘You guys have probably heard some stuff, but this is indicative of any huge rollout of any project.’”

Tellingly, the company’s spokeswoman, declined to comment.

So here’s the point: It’s OK to be proud and celebrate company milestones and success, but do not ignore the all-important need to manage crisis communications.  While you’re enjoying the party, be mindful that external events may require you to put out public relations fires before they consume you.