A Dangerous trend..Great Article

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May The Truth Be With You -- Selective Disclosures And Missed Opportunities May Have Fostered Unrealistic Expectations About Solving Year 2000 Problems Leon A. Kappelman

There's a dangerous trend developing regarding the year 2000 computer problem. Self-appointed "protectors"-in the IT industry, in other businesses, and in government-have launched an attack against honesty just when it looked like IT managers might start getting more details on Y2K efforts so they can properly assess the risks to their companies' supply chains and infrastructures.

Sure, the spinmasters say they're looking to prevent panic by being "selective" with their disclosures. But anyone who's ever worked on an application project knows that if users and customers have unrealistic expectations about attempts to solve a problem, they're bound to overreact if-or when-things go wrong.

Some recent events may have fostered some too-high expectations about Y2K. A global Y2K consortium of major financial institutions, addressing a United Nations gathering in December, said it would reveal in February which countries' financial infrastructures are at high risk for Y2K problems. The financial group now says it won't reveal the names for fear of "flight of capital" out of the high-risk countries.

- President Clinton then kicked off 1999 with his "Social Security Is Y2K Perfect" media event. Now don't get me wrong: The Social Security Administration started its Y2K project nearly 10 years ago and may well be "Y2K AOK." But Clinton used the event mainly to congratulate the SSA. He missed an opportunity to educate people about the government agencies and businesses that aren't doing as well-including some that may affect the SSA's ability to deliver checks or information in a timely manner.

- And recently, the spinmasters have attacked the American Red Cross and GTE for suggesting that individuals should consider making prudent contingency plans in the face of Y2K uncertainty.

If only the leaders in the IT industry, other businesses, and government would be more candid, fostering realistic expectations about Y2K, those ill-informed IT managers making preparations could avoid overreacting later-and others, lulled to sleep by happy talk, could avoid under-reacting. As federal Y2K maestro John Koskinen said recently, "For some people, a certain amount of panic would help."

One thing the spinmasters should keep in mind: Sooner or later, many of high-tech's dirty little secrets will get wider attention. You know what they are-the high cancellation rates and lateness of IT projects, the abysmal quality of software, the persistence of year 2000 problems in many new products, and the ambiguity that clouds nearly every statement about Y2K compliance and/or disclosure.

And wait until more businesses find out about the efforts under way in Washington to grant Y2K get-out-of-liability-free rights to all product purveyors and information gatekeepers who don't do the right thing.

Nontechnical people are confused and afraid because they're no longer sure they can trust the technologies they'd placed great faith in and yet don't fully understand. We high-tech professionals still have 10 months to salvage our credibility and reputations by helping them. I see four primary ways to do this.

- We can continue to fix as many of the highest-risk Y2K problems as we can.

- We can work to ensure that contingency plans are in place to deal with the Y2K risks we cannot directly deal with or get satisfactory information about.

- We can strive for more candid disclosures about our products and services.

- We can help the folks who depend on the technologies we provide to get honest and accurate information so that they can make realistic preparations for their organizations and their communities.

Together, we can illuminate the darkness.

I am grateful for any truth in this media fog. MJL

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), February 14, 1999



Good article. Thanks for the post.

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 15, 1999.

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