y2k countdown: If It Does Not Go Exactly Right, Then What?

Quite a thought! Currently polls suggest a highly reactive environment. Whatever the reasons few have any form of contingency plans - even less have a written version. You know time is running out. You know that 1999 is going to be one of your most critical years in your career.

Unknown risks lurk in the shadows of 2000. After all we have never been there. YES, we never went to the Moon before either but we could always stop the countdown launch clock. It is no secret that programmers are overly optimistic and project managers submit double and triple estimated project hours to arrive at an accurate completion date and still missed deadlines are very common. Failure is not very pleasant anytime, especially in this Year 2000 business

Testing is not enough nor the final phase of Year/2000. Believing so is similar to thinking your system does not require well written recovery and disaster recovery plans. Surely, you can relate to the panic of disastrous situations. "Test or be Tested" is often heard on the streets, the net, and more. Test or not, you will be tested - in the 12th hour nonetheless. It’s timing is less then optimum and painfully unavoidable. The extent driven by perceived severity, to the business, staff, budgets, and confidence factors. Limited only by the infinite number of combinations and code paths in various combinations with key dates on your business calendars. Are you getting a picture, that the risks are still very much present and you will need stable direction prepared in Contingency plans?

One of the major purposes of Contingency Plans is to stabilize the company’s operations as quickly as possible. This requires planning and a view of the possible cascading effects and process interdependencies. Written Contingency Plans, prioritized to support your business risks are a must! For as much as we believe our labors have been done accurately there remains reasonable uncertainty to be evaluated. That includes reliability of product, services, transportation, and information interfaces. Speed of recovery is important, so it is essential to test recovery plans effectively.

Let’s look at the some prerequisites in building contingency plans.

Identification and relative importance of critical functions.

Analysis of:

  • the desired survival order [first, second, third - - degree of importance]
  • the current methods of operation searching for simplification opportunities.
  • people, systems, supplier, product - sole dependencies

MIS being a vital part of the performance of many critical functions must be a conspicuous part of the company contingency planning for Year 2000 transitions. Consider the impact of date miscalculations, Inventory hardware, software [system & applications], telecommunications, external and internal interfaces, environmental, and financial dependencies. Key management MUST decide which of these must continue to function at what level and those that MUST work adinfinitum and those they can do without entirely. Some functions might be outsourced others cut by large amounts to aid in the reallocation of resources, crucial cross training or manual efforts. IT input is invaluable as you will see.

Substantial parts of the above analysis will come from current methods and operations others will emerge from the contingency plan evolution. Critical functions may not be important to continued operations. Therefore, a careful analysis and weighing of relative priorities and interrelationships is key -- just as data integrity is a prime mission.]

Armed with these processes, you might go forward into more depth on critical elements such as:

  • Inventories and Required services
  • Facilities, personnel, hardware, system software, application software
  • Degraded Operations Procedures
  • External infrastructures - key relationships, supplies and supply chains.
  • Resumption of Service Strategies

Year/2000 comes with many of the attributes of disaster and recovery plans and some added considerations. MIS should be well versed in these areas and able to build on them for Year 2000 contingency planning deltas. These can be found in the mammoth amount of code changes perhaps data changes or both. Not to mention the human skill shortages or losses both in-house and contracted..

Contingency Planning is the way to minimize the impact of Year/2000 problems through yet another level preparedness. This includes the requirement for a written plan. Please do not abuse it as your primary vehicle to bridge the 2000 gap or transition. It is a necessary insurance policy all will need. Circumstance dictate concentrated efforts be focused on only mission critical, non-deferrable operations first. Pay special attention to computer and external infrastructure requirements

Contingency Plans are your "Plan Ahead" notes allowing you to keep you wits about you during times of utter chaos. There are about eight to 10 key steps we might look at in a more detailed manner in the future if you have interest. Let me know. Glenn-Ericson@att.net>