Resolutions for the Millennium

As the clock ticked relentlessly across each of the earth's time zones on New Year's Eve, I shared everyone's relief when nothing horrible happened. As the ball dropped above Times Square and my pocket pager remained silent, I calmed down, sat back, and enjoyed the televised fireworks.

When I got to the office Jan. 3, 2000, and met with some Y2K buddies to confirm that everything was still up and running, most commented that the Y2K transition turned out to be the biggest non-event in history.

But my friends aren't giving themselves nearly enough credit. I know for sure that catastrophic system and network problems would have happened if we hadn't thoroughly blitzed the Y2K problem during 1999. Mentally multiplying our little corner of the world by millions of similar companies, I've concluded that, far from being a nonevent, the Y2K transition was probably one of the greatest network, software, and systems management projects in history. That leaves me wondering: What can we learn from our Y2K experience to ensure similar success in our daily IT implementation and technology management projects?

After some thought, I came up with a few New Year's resolutions for 2000.

Set meaningful deadlines and stick to them. For Y2K, of course, the deadline was the project, which raised it way above any possible debate. So, as I assemble my project plan to roll out a new network infrastructure this year, I'm resolving to pick an equally absolute deadline by tying the end of the effort to a business cycle, such as a sales quarter or a payroll period. I'll keep my project's intermediate target dates flexible, but I'll cast the final deadline in stone, and use it as a rallying point for the effort.

Keep the inventory of your network and systems assets up-to-date. As step one in solving the Y2K problem, we took an exhaustive inventory of our thousands of networked devices and systems, recording the software and firmware release and patch levels, and noting the applications that were running. We automated most of this using products like Microsoft Corp.'s SMS, but were amazed at the number of valuable things we learned when we visited the machines. We didn't even know a few of them were running until we almost tripped over them. SMS is a fine tool, but it can't "see" everything. I'm resolving to find a way to keep our inventory as accurate and up-to-date as possible this year.

Involve the users. From time to time during the Y2K effort, we needed direct help from our users to test remediated systems and patched applications. What we needed most, though, was commitment to our ultimate success, as well as their patience at various points along the way when our testing accidentally kicked them off-line. So, in the coming year, I'm resolving to make our network users an integral part of my project team. I'm going to make sure they share in the credit for our ultimate success.

Encourage global thinking and professional respect. We had our share of Y2K-gurus helping us identify problem areas and mapping out remediation strategies. But, in the end, getting through Y2K involved the tireless efforts of hundreds of day-to-day folks who often identified and resolved serious glitches that the gurus overlooked. This year, while I'll try to assign meaningful subprojects to the folks in my group based on their specialties, I'm going to encourage all to leave their cubicles now and then to find out how they can help others. I'm also going to make a real effort to catch my people doing things right, and make sure they get recognized for it. --Al Cini is a senior consultant with Computer Methods Corp. (Marlton, N.J.) specializing in systems and network integration. Contact him at