Cohn’s Comments: Thanks to Y2K

Mike Cohn

We begged for mercy. We asked for extensions. Instead, we were subjected to relentless pain. Endless suffering. But finally, after long last, our Y2K project is at an end.

And how should we mark the occasion--by quickly forgetting the whole thing, putting it in mothballs, moving on and killing the next guy that blurts remediation, contingency plan or any other millennibuzzword?

But we can't. Because like it or not, our Y2K project created some good stuff. We created new processes. Better quality. Tighter testing. Somehow, there has been a silver lining to this dark, dark, dark cloud.

Let's not let the benefits slip through our key-till-we-croaked fingers. Because, thanks to Y2K, there are lots of great leftovers! Good stuff like:

Inventory of Assets
We once had no idea what we had. We didn't have a list of hardware. Or features. Or software. Or versions. Or releases. We found servers in storehouses! We stored boxes in bathrooms!

But thanks to Y2K, we have a repository. For the first time in years, we possess a 124-page spreadsheet listing everything we have in the shop. I finally know where to find every asset we've got! Except that darned spreadsheet; I know it's here someplace.

Test Techniques
We weren't too happy when we were asked to spend 20,000 man-hours changing millions of lines of RPG code. Just imagine how ticked we were when the boss told us to test it, too. But there's an upside to this testing torture. We've developed sophisticated test scripts. And test data. And test techniques. And we've stuck all this and about 4,000 screen prints in a few dozen handsomely-labeled 3-ring binders.

But is there any chance we'll need any of it again? Unfortunately yes, since our lawyers won't let us toss out so much as a Post-it Note in case we get sued for missing one stupid YY.

Project Management
We've never had a project this big. We've never needed a fancy "Project Office." But we had one for Y2K and it was great. We were forced to centralize schedules. Stay under budget and actually complete a project before it got canceled. (Will wonders never cease?)

And to do it, we produced pounds of Pert Charts, gallons of Gantt Charts and dozens of Data Flows. It was darned impressive; we plan to use these same charts for every project from now on! In fact, we plan to use the exact same charts! I bet it'll take months before anyone notices.

For once, management let us buy tools. So now we have software configuration managers. We have change management protocols. We have version controllers and data analyzers and code parsers out the wazoo. We've never had a better arsenal of process-enablement tools in the shop! Of course, we don't have a clue how to use them, since anyone who knew squat got sucked out by headhunters months ago.

Best of all, we've been able to enforce desktop standards. No more potpourri of word processors! No more disparate databases! Thanks to Y2K, everyone has to buy the same shrinkwrap. Thanks to Y2K, everyone has to buy the same hardware. But no one really cares, because thanks to Y2K, we don't have two cents to rub together, anyway.

Mike Cohn is a Y2K consultant in Atlanta, and could really use some time off.