Peter de Jager as Johnny One-Note : LUSENET : Deathmarch Y2K : One Thread

This is actually praise for PdJ. I have real problems with some of what he has said and left unsaid, but it's important to give credit where credit is due.

There was a long stretch of time when it seemed to me that every article or speech given by PdJ could be boiled down to the following three propositions:

1. The record of the computer industry with respect to accomplishing very large projects has been overall very bad. Large time and cost overruns have been common, and some costly efforts have been simply junked.

2. Y2K is a huge crucial problem area with an absolutely inflexible deadline.

3. Therefore it follows that the computer industry is going to have to perform better than in the past, to cope with Y2K.

PdJ has not been the only person pointing all this out, but I think he has been far and away the most repetitive. (I heard that he got a top award from the Recycling Institute of America for his articles and speeches.)

My point is that if an argument is important enough, there is nothing wrong with being a Johnny One-Note. And one cannot argue with the truth of what he was saying.

The special problems of very large computer efforts have been recognized and written about for decades. I remember an issue of Datamation which was devoted to such problems, and I think this was over 20 years ago. The cover of the issue showed a gigantic lemon coming out of the sky to flatten a city. Pedestrians were screaming and running. And books (the most well known probably being The Mythical Man Month) have had a lot of good things to say. But how much better, really, are huge software efforts being managed now compared with the past?

In my mind's eye I can see an audience of managers listening to one of PdJ's standard speeches, nodding in agreement, really digging it. Because you simply cannot argue with his logic. But what happened with these managers later on? Did they read their organization's Y2K master plan and remember to ask themselves "Is this a better plan than this very same organization would have developed 10-15-20 years ago?"

-- Peter Errington (, July 18, 1999


(1) Another possible response to the challenge is to perform about the same as in the past, but reinstalling a partially remediated, poorly tested system "on time".

(2) Although Y2K is getting some management attention, so have many of the projects that failed in the some cases, the recent past.

-- Mad Monk (, July 19, 1999.

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