Countdown to Year 2000: The "Trendy Traps" of the Summer of ’98
As we leave the last great summer before the first mini-meltdowns caused by the Y2K Problem, it is worthwhile to look at the season’s trends. Note that some of these represent traps for you and your company. So, proceed quickly – but with caution!
- More seminars on Testing (but testers are cutting corners): I now receive two invitations monthly to Y2K testing seminars. While this is mostly a good thing, I find many sessions focusing on shortcut testing because of time/money factors. Some organizations are erroneously attempting to limit testing by using date data and logic identification tools – and forgoing time-warp testing. Such tools are necessary but not sufficient for proper testing! There’s no easy way out.
- More seminars on Litigation: Many lawyers are circling Y2K looking to make a killing. I get two invitations to such seminars per week. Two groups, each fighting for supremacy, claim that it has the best knowledge about Y2K:
*Intellectual Property and Systems Acquisition/Contracting Attorneys
*Insurance Expert Attorneys
Each group has unique perspectives and skills to offer. While I prefer the first group in general as probably better capable to assist companies before and during Y2K litigation – especially if they already have litigated large scale systems project failures successfully, the Insurance Attorney can also be a critical addition/part of your Y2K legal team.
- SSA -The pinnacle - falls: I believe that the Social Security Administration will not be issuing its 50,000,000 monthly checks correctly or on-time. Yet many still hold it up as the leader of Y2K project management and readiness. While we all want/need heroes, the SSA admitted to recently identifying an additional 33,000,000 lines of code that it allegedly forgot about that must be remediated to properly handle "disabled" SS recipients. Such calculations begin at the state level and are passed to the Federal Systems for ultimate benefits determination.
Further, SSA checks are issued by Treasury Department’s Financial Management Services group - a "most dismal performer" in Treasury’s remediation efforts per Congressman Horn’s periodic Y2K report card. Note also that Horn’s February 1998 Report laments that mission critical systems brought into compliance by 27 U.S. government agencies has dropped down to 7.9 percent for the period ending Feb. 15, 1998, from a rate of 9.4 percent just five months earlier. That’s a trend that is bone-chilling!
- Continued poor disclosure: Even with SEC bulletins, AICPA Auditing Standards and Senate legislation in the works, America’s public are ignoring proper, full and meaningful disclosure. While each company says it does not want to be the "Y2K Disclosure Poster Child," I predict that hiding the real facts will eventually hurt their own remediation efforts, incite shareholders, slow down the sharing of solutions process and further rightfully expose all such companies to greater damages in court.
- Big 5 – "OUT" of remediation: No surprise here. The Big 5 (formerly the Big 6) accounting firms have uniformly announced that they are out of the Y2K remediation business in June 1998 (unless some big audit client leans on them where the firm has put in questionable systems). Hey guys, where are you when we need you?
- Federal Government: Noise, NOT Leadership: President Clinton’s July 1998 speech on Y2K was too little, too late. I appreciate that he must balance full disclosure with "avoiding a panic" but I did not get the proper sense of urgency in his speech which was mixed with personal jokes, some false hopes (a $12,000,000 donation to World Fund 2000 to support the efforts in developing countries), American bravado (i.e., we can do anything if we put our minds and attention to it), and special congratulations to Vice President Gore for his great contributions in the Y2K arena. I do however support the "Safe harbor proposal" that will allow companies to share openly status and solutions to fix the problems without fear of later reprisals in court for such sharing.
- Embedded systems (Seriously in mix): The need to remediate embedded systems, LANs, telecommunication systems and software, mini-computer and PCs are finally recognized and are being planned for in Y2K assessments, remediation and contingency plans.
- Renovation out – Triage in: Trying to fix everything is out . Fixing only the most critical systems and components is the trend. However, you must still plan to turn off, substitute or otherwise remediate any systems that will NOT be fixed lest they inadvertently still be used and, thus, spew out incorrect information for other systems and or users who will continue to rely on them.
- Date expansion overtaken by windowing: Windowing is believed to be cheaper, faster, not as permanent, doesn’t work for companies requiring data that spans more than 100 years, and can cause problems if not implemented in the same manner (i.e., with the same windows). Take care and let your business partners, customers and regulatory agencies know what you plan to do ASAP.
- Off-site factories becoming popular -- with mixed results: With the millennium date fast approaching, the use of off-site (out-of-country) software factories is on the upswing. Keep in mind that many such efforts in the past few years have had mixed results. Among the many lessons learned is that such projects must be stringently managed; standards, tools and methodologies must be specified and enforced; outsourcers must take time to understand the client organization’s business rules/processes; an on-the-factory-site, full-time client management and QC/QA team is required; acceptance testing becomes more critical than ever; and pilot remediations are still recommended to catch and address poor correction processes/methods early in the relationship.