Microsoft Executive to Lead

Microsoft file photo

Kurt DelBene takes the reins from Jeffrey Zients to lead the site out of crisis mode.

A Microsoft executive will step in for the White House’s former Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients to manage the Obama administration’s troubled online health insurance marketplace, officials announced on Tuesday.

Kurt DelBene, who headed the Microsoft Office division, will lead the team operating for at least the first half of 2014, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. His official title will be senior adviser to the secretary.

DelBene will lead the team at it transitions from a two-month “tech surge” to repair a site that was nearly completely crippled upon launch to a period more focused on maintenance  and responding to consumer demands.

Since a self-imposed repair deadline of Nov. 30, officials say has been functioning smoothly with error rates lower than 1 percent and page response times of less than 1 second. It’s still unclear whether the upgraded site will draw in enough insurance seekers to make a key element of President Obama’s landmark health care reform law sustainable.

In a statement forwarded by the Health and Human Services Department, Microsoft founder Bill Gates called DelBene “a talented and capable executive, with a track record of successfully managing complex large-scale technology projects” and “a passionate advocate for using technology to solve difficult problems at scale.”

Sebelius added, “Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development.”

Obama appointed DelBene’s predecessor Zients to lead the National Economic Council but later drafted him to head up the fix on a temporary basis when it became clear the repair required a single manager inside government.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel is also a former Microsoft executive.