Just a brief illustration...

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Many of you are computer professionals, some of you even do Y2K related work. I don't do Y2K work, but I have done computer projects for companies, big and small. My experiences in this area, along with other aspects of my experience in the world have led me to be concerned about the possiblities of Y2K.

Many of you aren't computer professionals, and don't have experience doing the kinds of projects that are being done to rectify the situation. Although this is largely irrelevent to what needs to be done about Y2K, let me tell you a story to illustrate how these things work, in my limited experience, anyway.

In 1991, I worked on a project for Pacific Bell Directory (the phone book division of the phone company), to do an inventory of their computer assets. The project team that I worked on was for the micro-computers. It was a two-fold project; one part was to get a physical inventory of assets for accounting purposes, and to tag those assets so they could be tracked. The other part was that they were setting up a help desk, and wanted a realistic view of the hardware and software that the company had. The part of it that I worked on took about five months. (figure 20 working days a month - 100 days altogether)

The first month was figuring out which systems would be included in my team's part of the inventory. We would do the standalone PC's, Macs, networked AT&T systems, the dumb terminals hooked up to the various mainframes and mini's, printers and various peripheral devices. Another department would do all the bigger machines and the network. Yet another department would take all the data that was collected and do whatever they do with it.

Next we needed to decide what tools to use for the various systems that we would need to build a database of what software was actually on each machine. This meant researching and testing software to see how it worked, and to make sure that the data that was collected would be usable.

The second month was designing and printing forms for the data that needed to be collected manually, having asset tags printed, getting location maps, hiring the team of people to go around to each location, setting up timing schedules, talking to managers to let them know what to expect and to get their feedback for how and when we should approach their departments, etc.

The people on our part of the team included the manager who communicated up and down the food chain, his lovely assistant who did all the logistical work of getting us plane tickets and hotel rooms, renting cars, keeping up all the paperwork and all that good stuff. Those two folks shared a clerical assistant. There was a guy from the database group who spent a lot of time with us helping us to keep things within certain parameters, but he doesn't really count. I actually worked for a subcontractor, and hired three of my friends at my company, and the four of us actually went around and layed our hands on all the machines.

The third and fourth months were going around to every location in the state and touching about 3000 machines, plus like I said, printers and peripherals. What we did was put a tag on everything, write down on a form the model of machine, serial numbers, asset tag numbers and location, run a program on each machine that collected a list of what software was installed (obviously, not on the dumb terminals, and that was about a third of it). It took about 15 minutes per machine. This time did not include waiting for the user to finish what they were doing, chatting with them about what WE were doing, telling them those were lovely kids in that photograph on the desk, smoke breaks, lunch breaks, travel time, etc. I could do 20-30 machines a day, and I was the fastest on the team.

Let me tell ya, it got REAL boring after a while.

I mean b . . . o . . . r . . . i . . . n . . . g

There were a few things that livened things up at times, like the fact that we went to war with Iraq. I'll never forget the moment I heard that the bombing started. It was like one of those movie moments. It was late in the day, overcast, and the light was odd. Little long-haired punk me went in the office of the president of the company. He was listening to the radio and talking to his secretary. I went and sat down in his chair and started doing my thing on his computer. ( it looked like it had never been used) Obviously, I was distracted by the lushness of an office that was worth more than everything I've ever owned in my whole life. Not to mention the fact that the radio was talking about the bombing. When I finished, he said, "So, have you been hearing this?" yes, I said. "What do you think about it?" I think it sucks. (laughter) "Yea, you're right. That's the only answer. It sucks." The point is that there were distractions.

From Redding to San Diego, we had about 20 different locations we had to go to. Some of these locations only had a handful of machines, others had hundreds. The bulk of it was in the Bay Area, as were we. When went to Los Angeles to do the work there, we worked at night. Same with San Diego. A road trip to slap tags on 500 machines took five people a week. (The lovely assistant joined us for this. That was BIG TROUBLE, let me tell ya...) We stayed in a hotel in Anaheim right across the parking lot from the entrance to Disneyland. When we got up on a beautiful SoCal morning and saw that and then thought about what we had to go do that day, we cried. Literally.

Anyway, enough of that.

The fifth month was organizing all the data that was collected so that it could be handed off to the next group that would deal with it. Also, filling in holes of things that we missed, financial reports, dealing with the database group, etc. At the end, they decided to change the approach to the help desk, but that didn't affect what we had done, but meant redesigning how certain information was formatted.

The moral of the story is that it took seven people five months to do a relatively small project in a big company, and...


-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), March 18, 1999


Riveting- Next time tell us the story when you cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen floor. What a fabulous thread you've started. You are right, though. It is largely irrelevant to Y2K

-- garbage man (boring@crap.com), March 18, 1999.

I remember that time back in 1987 when I spilled drano on my left hand while cleaning the bathroom. Man, that hurt SO much, I haven't cleaned it since then!

Let me tell you all about it...

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), March 18, 1999.

And if the remediation isn't done right - down to last little link in the last controller - your job might be headed for the "garbage" - and your purpose in posting a reply was?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), March 18, 1999.


This is helpful background.

Thanks for sharing.

Best wishes,

-- Watchful (seethesea@msn.com), March 18, 1999.

Every How To Do It book on Y2K always says that a thorough inventory is needed, for both technical and legal purposes. Thanks, pshannon, for giving everyone a first hand account of what is involved, and how long it takes.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), March 18, 1999.

THANK YOU Jacksprat, for getting the point. For those of you who are similar to Oublio, the point here is that this is what an inventory looks like WHEN YOU CAN SEE ALL OF THE PARTS YOU ARE INVENTORYING. None of these systems was buried in a process control box in a factory, or up in the roof, or in a box on the wall or under the 500- ton press......

Chuck, who KNOWS there is a pointless forest it just ain't here...

"The point, Oublio, is there is no point. So don't worry about your pointless head here" NOT!!!

-- Chuck, a night driver (reinzoo@en.com), March 18, 1999.

"The first month was figuring out which systems would be included in my team's part of the inventory."

It took you a whole month to figure out what to inventory? I'm glad you AREN'T working on a Y2K project!

-- no wonder you think we're doomed (.@...), March 18, 1999.

OK, "no wonder you think we're doomed", how would you go about segregating "mission critical" from "non-mission critical" systems -- just play eenie-meenie-minee-moe? Or would you insist that everything get a thorough inventory, even the trivial stuff that nobody really cares about anyway?? Think of how much more time that would take!!

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), March 18, 1999.

Actually, no wonder, if my cut 'n paste is working properly, the first month also included:

"...we needed to decide what tools to use for the various systems that we would need to build a database of what software was actually on each machine. This meant researching and testing software to see how it worked, and to make sure that the data that was collected would be usable."

This was before the days of the web, so we actually had to read trade publications and order software and wait for it to come in the mail. No downloading demos.

Naturally, the "figuring out which systems would be included in my team's part of the inventory" probably took about two hours, the rest of the month was finding and testing software, and dealing with corporate politics.

BTW - I'm glad I'm not working on a Y2K project also...

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), March 18, 1999.

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