Y2K: IT Managers Urged to Think Globally, Act Locally

IT managers are emerging as the new corporate "heroes" pulling their organizations through the Year 2000 mess, Leon Kappelman, Ph.D., told attendees at a recent conference sponsored by Hexaware Technologies Inc. (Princeton, N.J.). While much is beyond the control of IT -- such as public power supplies and other public infrastructure -- those managers who think globally, but act locally will provide their companies the opportunity to grab new market share, as well as reap new respect for their departments.

However, IT managers need to keep unexpected complications related to Y2K work from spinning out of control, Kappelman warns. In addition, IT managers are urged to keep a sharp, narrow focus on their individual enterprises and the local community -- "it is at this level that a particular Y2K problem will do the most damage. It all happens locally. Y2K is a phenomenon at the local level."

One silver lining is that a new, more rigorous methodology to systems development and management has taken hold at many organizations because of Y2K. "Our bad habits got us into this mess," Kappelman states. An obstacle that still has to be overcome -- and may jeopardize efforts -- is that "software projects typically are late," he states. "The best are late 25 percent of the time, and the worse are late 75 percent of the time."

Plus, the remediation error rate is running high, even at the best-managed companies. Kappelman cites calculations that there is at least one defect for every 144 lines of code remediated for Y2K. As of the fourth quarter of 1998, the average program undergoing Y2K remediation contained almost 800 defects, most of which most can be categorized as "bad fixes" rather than century date issues.

The top 500 U.S. corporations alone may have to deal with more than four million new defects caused by Y2K repair work. Experts calculate the total additional tab to U.S. companies may be in the neighborhood of $98 to $188 billion dollars -- about 31 percent of the money already spent on Y2K renovations.

--J. McKendrick