Countdown to Year 2000

As we move into the first months of the last year before Y2K, a very interesting butdistressing phenomenon is occurring. That is, the press and television media are all butclaiming victory over the Y2K computer problem.

President Clinton has announced that the Social Security System is fixed – butwhat about the 50 states that send information regarding recipient disability informationfor SSA processing that have not all been remediated and tested alone and in conjunctionwith the SSA’s fixed system?

U.S. Y2K Czar John Koskinen has shown un-cautious enthusiasm about the allegedly"miraculous recovery" of the U.S. Federal Government’s progress –which by default, must have taken place over Christmas vacation – because thegovernment was sure in trouble before Christmas. Newspapers and magazines are printingexaggerated reports of the same few encouraging success stories that make it appear thatwe’ve won the battle everywhere.

While I, too, had always hoped that we would have turned the corner by now, I am forcedto conclude that this is all a Pollyannaism that comes with every new century –because it just doesn’t square with the facts.

There’s Facts and Then…

So what were these facts as of the end of 1998? Here are the "Dirty Dozen:"

  1. Awareness of the Y2K problem and efforts to resolve it were started much too late by many organizations because no one wanted to admit to the problem, or find and spend the monies required to fix the problem given the limited "additional payback for the efforts" – which, ironically, is the ability to stay in business.
  2. The great majority of large systems development or maintenance projects, which Y2K remediation is, have always had a dismal track record of being severely under-budgeted (by as much as 50 percent-100 percent) and coming in late (by as much as 6-24 months). Also large projects virtually never get turned around over the holidays.
  3. The U.S. Government, many large banks and General Motors just to name a few recently announced significant increases in their estimated Y2K budgets (e.g., GM’s Y2K budget went from approximately $600 million to about $900 million.)
  4. There is still a shortage of over 300,000 programmers and information technology professionals worldwide – so who is doing all of these supposedly wonderful fixes?
  5. Significant system tests, that are likely representative of the state-of-remediation within each respective industry, are failing all over the world. For example, General Motors conducted a Y2K test in one of its automated manufacturing plants. The whole plant shut down as embedded chips in the machinery refused to function.
  6. Banking Regulators continue to censure banks and investment brokers/ bankers.
  7. The U.S. Department of State recently reported that 26 percent of the world’s telecommunications companies were either unaware of the problem or had not begun work on it. While 74 percent were working on the problem, 29 percent expected to have problems.
  8. Half of the oil consumed in the U.S. is imported. Our two major suppliers (the United Oil Emirates and Venezuela) both severely lag in their Y2K remediation efforts.
  9. Senator Bob Bennett, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Y2K Problem, recently said he had little to no confidence that the Health Care Finance Administration (HCFA) would complete their work on time.
  10. U.S. Congressman Steven Horn, chair of the Congressional Subcommittee on Government Management Information and Technology, which monitors and reports U.S. government’s Y2K progress, continues to find/predict, that almost 50 percent of government agencies and organizations will miss the remediation deadline set by the President’s Council on Y2K conversion.
  11. Small businesses have all but ignored the problem. They hope to be able to address it in real time when and as the problems occur (Good luck!)
  12. The U.S. Federal Reserve prints $50 billion in currency to stave off a run on the banks – just in case there are problems in getting to your money!

All Together

Certainly, in a year we’ll know the real impact Y2K will have on our lives,businesses and communities. But no one really can say at this time. Filling us up withunwarranted hope that will cause people, governments and businesses to further ignore theproblem is not the solution. It’s irresponsible.

Will Y2K be a bust, an inconvenience, or TEOTWAWKI (i.e., The End of the World as WeKnow It)? Until the real facts show otherwise, let’s keep working together hard ataddressing Y2K, disclose our status to one another, share our solution techniques andtriumphs, identify, realistically, where we will not make it, and define and implement


About the Author:

Warren S. Reid is President of WSR Consulting Group, LLC, in Encino, Calif. He can bereached by fax at (818) 986-7955, or via e-mail at wsreid@wsrcg.com, or through his Website at www.wsrcg.comappropriate contingency plans.