New Y2K Tool Dots the I's and Crosses the T's

Sometimes, it takes a low-tech approach to set high technology on the right course. Along with software tools, a new AS/400-based Year 2000 tool on the market includes a detailed collection of 72 hard copy forms, designed to help users document each phase of the Year 2000 process.

FastForward/2000, offered by Everest Technologies Inc. (Nashville, Tenn.), offers other user-intervention techniques, such as line-by-line code-change verification, which helps reduce testing requirements later on in the process. The tool offers both windowing and date field expansion changes, user views of all changes and detailed documentation for project management. FastForward/2000, which runs directly on the AS/400, works with "all flavors of RPG," says Bob Brown, president of Everest Technologies. COBOL code is not supported, however.

The tool instructs users to point the tool at selected libraries where it finds date fields being used in the programs. A cross-reference tool directs users to potentially date-deficient lines of code. Using a technique much like the find-and-replace feature of a word processor, the tool steps through the code, exposure by exposure. Users can then direct it to renovate the highlighted line of code or leave it unchanged.

With each change, the old code is automatically "deactivated," replaced with new Y2K compliant code and documented on the screen. In the event that users must later return to review or make changes, the old code remains with the new code. This is a "lights-on" approach that will help reduce testing time, Brown explains.

The tool enables both windowing and date-field expansion, side-by-side if necessary, Brown says. "If you select windowing for a field, the software goes out to a subroutine and adds a couple of lines of code that create the window."

An accompanying 380 page manual provides pre-planning information. "You can't just load a big expensive tool Monday morning and start running," Brown says. "The big tools overlook the pre-planning stages -- such as system clean-up, change management issues, DASD planning and IBM support for dates. Those are the things a lot of people overlook until they're halfway into the process."