Editorial: Y2 Bother?

I’m getting an image. It’s cloudy, but becoming clearer. It’s June 2000. I see headlines: "Presidential Candidate Jesse Ventura Pile Drives Bill Gates in National Debate," "Flyers Sweep Stanley Cup" (well maybe that one’s reaching); but nothing about the Y2K crisis.

That’s right, this time next year, no one will remember or care about the Year 2000, unless, of course, someone slams more homers, and steroids, than Mark McGwire next season. No, I foresee no one reminiscing about the Y2K bug. How dare I make such a prediction? Didn’t I watch CNN, or see Time magazine? Didn’t I hear about "The Lockdown?" The theory being that no new purchases, hardware or software, will be made from after this month to as far out as March 2000.

I say no, brothers and sisters. For, as most soothsayers forecast the dreaded 2H99 (that’s second half of 1999) "lockdown" from companies bracing for the Year 2000 rollover, I see most savvy managers getting a jump start on an opportunity – and we all know you don’t get that too often in this business.

I say this with confidence, because most people don’t even care today – June 1999 – about Y2K. In fact, this time next month most of the headaches would have hit, and businesses will have moved on to recovery.

Yeah, the Millennium prophecies of fire raining down, and cats and dogs living together still run amok – and if you hurry you still can find stores that will sell you that $725 flashlight, the $65 Bic lighter or the 800-roll pack of TP. However, as far as IT is concerned, most of you and your colleagues are beyond worrying about the Year 2000 and are advancing onto the bigger and better phases of the IT evolution – the E-phase. Call it e-Commerce, e-Business or e-service; but for the majority of IS managers, it is and will be business as usual.

Gutsy IT managers may be able to take advantage of any competitors who may be "playing it safe," in order to gain a three-to-six month head start on e-commerce initiatives. And just because a system is purchased and installed does not mean it needs to go live. This could be the perfect window to finish cleaning house, purchasing and aligning a new IT program. Then, just wait to pull the trigger.

And though no one has the CPUs to come right out and say it, major vendors are showing no indication of a lockdown. For example, in the latest server shuffle, IBM leapfrogged its own G5 with its S/390 G6 server, which began shipping a couple of weeks ago. The G6 is the first enterprise server to use the copper chip technology. IBM maintains that by using the commercial microprocessors, running at 637 megahertz, the largest G6 system can deliver more than 1,600 MIPS.

In addition to the new G6 announcement, IBM reported overall first quarter sales of $20.3 billion, compared to $17.6 billion of last year, and a 42 percent rise in profit which was well in excess of expected analysts’ estimates. Does this sound like a company bracing for a buying freeze?

Even Cinderella story Unisys improved its second-half forecast. Although, playing it close to the vest, Chairman and CEO Larry Weinbach indicated , "We’re beginning to see some order activity for ClearPath systems in the third quarter, but, frankly, it’s too early to call." Admitting long-term predictions for hardware purchasing is very difficult; still Weinbach believes some customers will buy in the latter part of 1999 and implement after January 2000.

Now many will scoff and say that this is just the "Storm Before the Calm." However, I see those making such statements as merely aligning their excuses for expected shortcomings. Beware of vendor warnings and rumors of lockdown. Don’t let others’ passed opportunities force you to delay projects and miss advantages.

So, for the next six months, eat drink and spend money. For tomorrow, our systems die.