Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Looking back at Y2K issues over the past several years, there've been many frustrating moments, a few Prozac moments and many rewarding moments and I'm sure each of you shares similar feelings. As we cross the century with all of the newfound business stress tests behind us, we all hope for some relatively uneventful times. Just a chance to tell the world we made it with all the important stuff intact.

My guess is every bump will be kept very quiet for many reasons. Company public relations together with upper management and legal will advise against occurrence releases. There might be some merit to acknowledging minor incidents such as internal reports being out of order but under control, depicting a good contingency plan put into action without damages to/from themselves or others.

The same will hold true for the public sector and governmental agencies. Look at President Clinton's recent address on Y2K, in which he said the country is in good shape and under control. During the same time, reports of up to 54 percent of 911 emergency systems are not, nor will be Year 2000 compliant. If megaphones, the return of the Pony Express or Paul Revere's ride are workable solutions, then that is a fine commitment, but difficult to reverse if wrong.

During the decades preceding the Year 2000 correction rush, we all functioned under accepted business practices--practices that did not consider the use of century-bound dating. Whether it was a technical problem, management problem or just plain ignorance doesn't matter. It simply had to be fixed, "Stat!" Surely everyone, including John and Jane Q. Public, will perceive failures before, during and after January 1, 2000 as Y2K Bugs. Bugs and problems John and Jane each believe that you've introduced--changing lives, disrupting life styles, or drastically needed health, welfare or social support. "Computer people, you just screwed up the world, deceived us with your technical wizardry."

On the other hand, if all goes as well as we have planned, without a glitch or bump in the road, watch for the group (and they are there) who will interrogate you about bilking the world through the farce of Year 2000, taking so much of their assets for little or no reason.

No matter where the chips fall, MIS will bear battle scars, possibly face industry regulation and certainly closer business and technology teamwork will be in order. Hopefully, this will not get to the point of formal regulatory powers such as those that doctors and lawyers are subject to. I for one don't want to function that way. Perhaps it's time to become a house painter? You know, you can actually go home and talk to your spouse or show off the fruits of your labors for their appreciation and understanding.

Certainly, each of you has done much to smooth the turn of the century transition. The shortsighted among you might want to place your newfound knowledge on the open job market as surplus. But this experience should not be wasted and placed on the employment market just now.

First, there's still a need for rapid deployment teams to react to those unexpected areas that will inevitably crop up in such large projects as Y2K conversions. No shame here as long as the company handles them in a timely fashion and keeps the business rolling near normal without loss, without public notice.

Second, the huge amount of detailed knowledge you've gained is applicable to building better business practices. Now is the time to build and deploy them while the awareness is hot and some of the competition is still playing their Y2K end games. For example, understanding business intelligence and data warehouses/data marts is of tremendous advantage as you go forth to understand the marketplace and your current and future customers. One of the biggest problems here is dirty data. You, through Y2K, are a dirty data expert! And you're application savvy now too!

Taking this to another level, many projects have been postponed for reasons (correctly or incorrectly--who cares anymore) attributed to Y2K. Since Y2K is in standby mode, now is a superb time to begin those long awaited and sorely needed projects. Call this the legacy application enrichment/capitalization process--a process that you are now the premier resource to handle.

Now that the pressure is easing and the end is in sight, there are a few things I think you should do for yourselves.

1. Stay away from the blame game--It never mattered--finishing the job does!
2. Avoid getting entangled in legal cases--Going to court is not productive.
3. Make every effort to continue and improve the joint business management/IS relationships.
4. Capitalize on the knowledge you've gained.
5. Continue to make effective use of project and change management tools.
6. Work as a team with people inside and outside your company.

My column time is fading as 1999 and the century draws to a close. It's time to close this Y2K column down and make the space available to more current interests. That being said, I'll close my Y2K writings and retire my crystal ball.

GOOD LUCK! See you on the flip side of 2000! Contact me if you need a ride.