A Toast To Your Health

By now many organizations have completed a Year 2000 remediation process and are readyto execute a critical second step: Quality Assurance. Whether checking to ensure thatsystems purporting to be compliant do make the grade or checking the success of aremediation process, the quality assurance step is critical. Besides bolstering overallcorporate quality assurance and testing procedures and insuring against potentiallitigation over Y2K failures, a "health check" provides a safety net,demonstrating that an organization has done everything possible to ward off the "dateof doom."

Cobol Snowball

Mainframe-driven IT divisions are well aware that their systems are not Y2K ready, butmany with UNIX or Windows NT assume that their system is. It's a potentially dangerousassumption. They figure that they don't have a problem because both UNIX and Windows 2000can recognize dates well into the 21st century. However, programmers using mainframetechniques learned in languages such as COBOL could be embedding two-digit dates incharacter strings.

The techniques for a readiness health check are similar to those of a normalremediation effort. The big difference? The system is, ostensibly, ready. The healthcheck, however, assumes that THE SYSTEM IS NOT READY and sets out to find points wheretwo-digit dates exist. The first step is to establish the number of programs or componentsthat are date impacted. This is accomplished by scanning the source code to identify wheredates are referenced. For Y2K remediated applications, this should be a scan independentof the initial effort and preferably with a different tool. Next, subject matter expertsshould be interviewed to identify which programs or components are most critical and whichinterface with other applications.

For The Greater Good

A triage process is then initiated to determine the risks to the organization should aparticular program or component fail. The team then prioritizes the review processstarting with those programs that will cause the greatest disruption if failure occurs.Adherence to company programming standards and change control procedures is reviewed toestablish a confidence level for the state of the source code. If a company has done verylittle testing, a stronger effort should be undertaken. With this additional effort, thehealth check helps to develop a more rigorous test environment to use on an ongoing basis.

Costs vary widely according to the scope of the check, which can range from a simplereview of the remediation process and rescan of source code, to a thorough century testingeffort to satisfy stockholders or regulatory entities. The health check provides anobjective third-party opinion, as well as a testing process that can be leveraged infuture scenarios. The level of testing and associated cost is to a great degree dictatedby the industry; that is, the more regulation involved, the greater the requirement for anindependent assessment.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is a cliché thatcertainly applies to the Y2K Bug. The costs for a health check are insignificant whencompared against the costs of enduring a lawsuit. Those who use the health check will findtheir efforts well rewarded in the next millennium.

--James Patterson, Y2K Product Director, IMI Systems (Melville N.Y.),served as a programmer/analyst, project manager and consultant, most recently focusing onY2K challenges.