We need trends

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I've been thinking about the remediation information being released to the public and the press, mainly what's coming from the electric power utilities and the Feds. I think there's a real problem analyzing the situation because there is no extended history. For example, if you saw the following for a given entity:

Percentage Y2K Remediation Completed: Q3 1997 - 10% Q4 1997 - 15% Q1 1998 - 20% Q2 1998 - 25%

Seeing the trend of 5% progress per quarter, one could easily conclude that this entity was not going to be ready in time. The numbers being released by the power companies and the Feds show percentages, but without several consecutive reports, it is impossible for the average guy to tell whether sufficient progress is being made. The danger is that public perception may run along these lines: "I just heard about this Y2K thing, and they're already X% complete. Sounds like they have it under control." Those of us who are digging into this problem are relying on "insiders" - analysts, programmers, project managers. These insiders are painting a much different picture. They know how long it takes to really fix Y2K problems, and are generally not too opimistic. The press, and therefore the general public, will not see any negative trends for at least another six months. So Joe Average will assume that all is well.

We really need to see month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter progress reports in order to make projections. I know that Rep. Horn has his report card, but he gives letter grades by the quarter, and an estimate of where each branch of gov't will be in 3/99. This is helpful, but it's still difficult to judge for myself. If anyone can point me to this type of historical information, especially regarding the Feds and power companies (unlikely) please let me know.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 27, 1998


Mike, in theory your progress reports idea makes perfect sense. In practice, its meaningless. No one knows what percentage of the way through they are, because they have no baseline against which to measure. For example, as I write this today, there is not a single Y2K compliant electric utility company. Thus, there is no baseline that can be used by any other by which to measure. Y2K "optimists" will undoubtedly argue that Y2K resolution is relatively simple and straightforward, and so based on previous (non-Y2K) projects, you can in fact do a decent job of estimating your progress. But the reality is that the more people try to do with Y2K fixes, the more fixes they find needs to be done (especially with missing or unreliable source code), and the more impossible it will be to have it all done by when it needs to be done. Consider how many businesses and governments say that they have been aware of Y2K and working on Y2K for a long time -- yet nothing to show for it today! (Of course, regardless of how early or late they started, they will all be ready ....)

-- Joe (shar@pei.com), September 28, 1998.


I have to disagree. You say:

"No one knows what percentage of the way through they are, because they have no baseline against which to measure."

Just because something has never been done before, doesn't mean that one can't judge the progress of the job, or the percentage completion. Certainly, new problems arise, and Y2K troubles seem to come out of the woodwork. But that never stops project managers from making completion estimates. You can't have a perfect world. Conservative estimates could be made, if managers had the guts to do it.

"...the reality is that the more people try to do with Y2K fixes, the more fixes they find needs to be done (especially with missing or unreliable source code), and the more impossible it will be to have it all done by when it needs to be done."

If this is the case, perhaps you would suggest that everyone drop what they're doing and go home? This is an incredibly difficult problem, but it can be solved. Many of the fixes will come after 2000, and much hardship will occur. But It sounds like you've already thrown in the towel.

The question here is whether or not the information could be believed. I know that Government Dept. heads and Company PR types don't always give us the truth. (Really!) But there are those (such as Sen. Bennett or Dodd) who could get much closer to the truth. All we have is "We'll be ready by June, 1999." I'm looking for something more solid. I'm not too concerned about Company XYZ, aside from their effect on the economy. I think we need real data from third parties regarding public utilities and the Federal Gov. That's one of the complaints against the NERC report. The students were asked to grade themselves.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 28, 1998.

My feelings are that you will not get an honest answer from the gov't any more.

For example; I read an article sometime around 1st quarter this year in USA Today stating that the IRS could not fix their systems in time and were hoping for a flat tax to be installed.

All of a sudden the IRS is reported as being on schedule to get their systems fixed in time for Y2K.

Can some one please explain this to me?

-- areseejay (areseejay@aol.com), September 28, 1998.

I think of it more like "How big is big"? Y2k is pretty unique. Everytime you think your to the bottom of the box. The box has more boxes in it. Therefore most estitmates are meaningless anyway.


-- CP (Spoonman@prodigy.net), September 28, 1998.

Mike, you are absolutely right, I have thrown in the towel on expecting the Y2K problem to be fixed because it cannot be fixed -- not in the remaing time that is left. Use common sense: if it could be fixed, then would you not expect to see by this very late date at least ONE living example of an electric utility company that was Y2K compliant? (Or for that matter, a bank, or telecom, or govt agency, or ...) Ironically, although you don't mean to I'm sure, you are falling into the same mindset as the bureaucrats, trying to figure what "percent complete" the Y2K project is, or what "grade" should be given for Y2K effort, etc., etc. Wake up! Its TOO LATE!!

-- Joe (shar@pei.com), September 29, 1998.


I guess some people have a stronger survival instinct than others. I hope you don't give up so easily if TSHTF.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 29, 1998.

Not being able to define compliant doesn't mean we're doomed, any more than not being able to define health means we're all dead. In this game, like horseshoes, close counts.

y2k bugs will never be entirely eradicated - windowing schemes ensure this for at least 50 years. The real question is, how well will we be able to do damage control? There's a long distance between a high tech society and a few survivors gnawing on tree bark.

Many utilities have announced that although they cannot guarantee compliance (whatever that is), they will guarantee power - with or without the help of a grid. How many of them will?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), September 29, 1998.

Although we call it the "Year 2000 problem" or "Y2K bug", it is really many, many, occurances of many different problems. Each problem that gets fixed gets us closer to the goal of a smooth transition into 2000. 100% compliance is certainly not possible, but 95%, 90% or 85% is better than 0%. I also learned long ago that working hard will not guarantee success, but doing nothing will guarantee failure. I also understand that everyone will not succeed in fixing their Y2K problems, which is why I am preparing to deal with those failures.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 29, 1998.

Good point Mike. Thank you.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), September 30, 1998.

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