Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Update on the Alberta Billing and Labs module for OSCAR

Well - after my 4th kick at the can to get this done, I have learned a lot with my latest failure.

Basically, the Programmer that was hired to do the job - took the money and then basically quit due to personal problems (a divorce).    This was my 4th try at getting this done with no success.  Apparently, almost half of the necessary coding was done - but half of nothing is still nothing.....so I'm back to square one.

The NERD folks are amazing - and they got unfortunately "taken" by the well respected programming company as well.  NERD lost their own time, money and efforts on this project and they realized that the scope of the project was beyond their abilities.  They donated a heck of  a lot of effort to this project, and I will be forever grateful to them.

NERD decided that creating a billing/lab module for Alberta is beyond their scope.

This is a sign of a great company that is run by great people.  The most important thing a company can do is to define and limit their scope - and to stick with what they do well.  Steven Jobs did EXACTLY the same thing on his "Apple" product development mountain retreats - with eventually spectacular success.

The NERD folks are still my OSCAR providers, and I am proud to have them.

So I stepped back to analyze the problem from a wider perspective.

Basically, the problem is that other than my own personal convenience - there is no "incentive" out there to get a billing/lab module done.  Programmers have a LOT of well paying oil companies to choose from in Alberta, and when they run out of Oil Companies, there are innumerable industries with deep pockets ready for them with welcoming arms.

Also: apparently, Programmers have to eat and they don't like living in homeless shelters.

Some people in the Open Source community may be critical of the programming community's aversion to poverty, but it seems somewhat reasonable to me as I type this from my comfortable chair in my nicely appointed office in a nice house in an upscale community in one of the world's most expensive cities in a fabulously wealthy province in the best country in North America with the highest standard of living on the planet and possibly the universe.

OSCAR is spectacularly successful as an open source project largely because of the amazingly generous contributions of the folks from McMaster.  Their personal contributions as well as the contributions of the OSCAR community and McMaster keep OSCAR constantly growing and evolving to be the success that it is.

But doing a billing/lab module for each province is probably beyond the scope of the abilities of the OSCAR community at large right now, and this will not be likely to change over the next few years.  B.C. has a billing module as well as a lab module, but I understand that both of them have something to be desired.

Ontario's billing/lab module is apparently better, but both could also apparently use improvements.

Also; getting a billing/lab module built to a high standard is only part of the challenge.  Maintaining it and evolving it are also necessary and expensive.

With programmers busily picking the low hanging fruit out there (i.e.. OIL INDUSTRY) - there just is not enough lack of competition for their skills and time to keep their prices down and their focus on OSCAR billing/lab module development.

So - what are we to do?

The answer is already underway and will be probably operational within the next 3-4 months.  A company is simply going to develop a commercial "plugin" for OSCAR for profit.  Open source enthusiasts (of which I am one) may clamour that this violates the precepts of the much touted open source concept - but at the end of the day, we have to get real.....this is not a violation of the open source concept at all.

You can't have something for nothing.  Programmer need both payment and incentive.  These fine folks (the programmers that are building a billing/lab module for Alberta) seem to be motivated and they possess the necessary expertise to get a billing/lab module built for OSCAR in Alberta.  It will function as a plugin - and these folks may replicate this process for other Provinces.

Therefore, for a modest cost - you can have a high end, always evolving and maintained Billing/Lab module for your Province for OSCAR.  Open source pundits may disagree with this approach, but quite frankly, I've been going at this since 2009 and I have not seen a better or more viable solution.

Rather than burning their underwear in protest and screaming epitaphs about how this approach may violate the open source spirit - we open source enthusiasts should consider a better approach for the viability of the open source concept - which is to embrace this commercial "plugin" approach - and accept the inevitability of an eventually strengthened overall product that will always remain at its core, "open source".

So I'm going to give this a try and I'm going to promote this approach for Alberta.

There is  a lot of interest in OSCAR in Alberta - and the only thing holding the deployment of OSCAR back from widespread deployment in this province, is the lack of a billing/lab module for OSCAR.

Well - it is now on the way (for a modest fee)!

We will see where this new approach takes us!

Stay tuned for an update within a month.