IT Managers Urged to Think Globally, Act Locally

IT managers are emerging as the new corporate "heroes" that are 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 that 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% of the time, and the worse are late 75% 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 over 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% of the money already spent on Y2K renovations.

"People are going to be late, and there's going to be lots of defects," Kappelman warns. As a result of these potential disruptions and failures, there will be many opportunities for companies that get a handle on Y2K fixes. "A lot of fixes will be unmanageable and will break the back of enterprises," he says. "There will be a lot of market for the grabbing -- fire-sale assets."

Who should pay for this mess? In the case of packaged applications, liability and accountability needs to be placed on software vendors that wrote the code, he advocates. While legislation has been pending to reduce the Y2K liability of the software industry, he says the industry should not be let off the hook for "poor quality" products with the Year 2000 defect.

After we pass through Year 2000, the IT function will never be the same. The whole crisis has created a new found respect for IT from corporate managers, as well as a healthy sense of project management discipline. "If you pull this off successfully, and you'll feel better about yourself," Kappelman says. The "silver linings" to the Year 2000 crisis include better project management, process management, change or version control management, and better tools for maintenance, testing, and people skills. IT will have gained a more credibility and increased visibility in the enterprise.