City's Y2k readiness found lax (Atlanta) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 11.10.99]

City's Y2K readiness found lax A consultant makes a worrisome assessment of Atlanta's efforts to prepare for 2000.

By Julie B. Hairston Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

The city of Atlanta's Y2K program is "terminally behind schedule," disorganized, leaderless and secretive, a widely respected computer consultant has reported.

The technology in question controls financial and accounting systems that could affect revenue collection and payment of bills.

James McCullough, who worked as a Y2K consultant with the city, said the city may not make the Dec. 31 deadline for bringing all city computers into compliance. Getting the millennium bugs out of the city's system will require a lot of hard work and more resources than the city is currently putting into its Y2K program, said McCullough, a former information technology director for Delta Air Lines.

"They handle a lot of money over there at City Hall," said Ron Dolinsky, executive director of the Atlanta/Southeast Regional Y2K Solutions Center. "If the software doesn't work right, they could lose track of millions of dollars."

"This might have been interesting stuff in February, March or April," said Dolinsky, "but it's not. It's November. This is serious stuff."

Dolinsky has been working with the state's Citizens Y2K Task Force, which began meeting with city officials earlier this year after reports started to circulate that Atlanta might not be Y2K compliant by the end of the year. Although the formal charge of the task force focused solely on the city's essential services - fire, police, water and sewer, and the emergency response network - some task force members felt Atlanta's importance as a cultural, governmental and economic center called for some wider scrutiny.

"Our purpose is to see that the state of Georgia gets through the year 2000 without any problems," said James A. Jones, managing director of the Information Management Forum and a task force member. "The city is key to that."

As the meetings with city officials progressed, task force members asked McCullough, who also works for the Y2K Solutions Center and is acknowledged to be a Y2K expert, to join the discussions. Early last month,

Ted Fisher, a task force member who spearheaded the Atlanta liaison group, asked McCullough for his analysis of Atlanta's Y2K efforts.

"In my professional opinion," McCullough wrote in an Oct. 6 memo to Fisher, "Atlanta's Year 2000 Program is being poorly managed, months behind schedule, and is not taking the necessary actions to improve the chances of any real success."

A month later, McCullough says he stands by his initial assessment of the city's Y2K program, which has cost taxpayers more than $17 million over the past two years. But he also said essential services seem to be "in as good shape as anybody" and the city can complete the rest of its Y2K mandate if it applies more personnel, time and money to the task.

"They really have to get after it," he said. "They've got to get their best 'athletes' on it."

But city officials said they have no plans to add more personnel or money to their efforts, and insist Atlanta will make the deadline. They described McCullough as "disgruntled," even though he was not employed by the city when the Oct. 6 memo was composed. They said he did not have enough information at his disposal to form a credible conclusion about Atlanta's readiness.

"We are confident that, to the extent humanly possible, we will not have any Y2K compliance problems," said Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Larry Wallace.

Wallace said the city's essential services are ready for Y2K, as is 83 percent of the rest of the system. "The remaining 17 percent or so has been remediated and is being tested," he said.

At risk are millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. The city's mainframe computer has not been certified as Y2K compliant, and an Oct. 27 memo from McCullough to Administrative Services Commissioner Herb McCall indicates city officials do not have reliable intelligence on exactly what remains to be done.

But city officials said their Y2K contingency plans, developed under a contract with TRW, will allow the city's business to continue, even if automation ceases completely.

"We are doing everything we need to do," McCall said.

Atlanta is not alone. Washington, D.C., officials have admitted on a nationally broadcast television program that their vast computer network will not be ready for the millennium.

If the city falls short in its Y2K efforts, the consequences might not be apparent for some time.

"You and I as citizens might not see it right away," McCullough said, "but we might see it one month ... or even two months [later]."

Councilwoman Cathy Woolard, a member of the Y2K task force and regional director for the American Electronics Association, has been particularly persistent in her efforts to discern Atlanta's Y2K status.

"I suspected all along that we were in this kind of shape, but have not been able to confirm it," Woolard said of McCullough's report. "It's quite obvious that from the top down, nobody has a clue what they're doing."

McCall won't promise the city's computers will be glitch-free, but he steadfastly maintains the Y2K program is on track.

-- Homer Beanfang (, November 10, 1999


Telling Quotes:

The city of Atlanta's Y2K program is terminally behind schedule, disorganized, leaderless and secretive, a widely respected computer consultant has reported.

It's quite obvious that from the top down, nobody has a clue what they're doing.

But city officials said they have no plans to add more personnel or money to their efforts, and insist Atlanta will make the deadline.

Oh darn,

-- Uhhmm.. (, November 10, 1999.

The only reason the Atlanta Airport is complete is because Delta spent its own money and sent people (programmers/analysts/etc.) , new technology, consultants, and technical help over there so it (Delta) could remain in business at its main hub. Further, I understand, but have not confirmed independently, that the only reason the 911 system was fixed was because Bell South fixed it - again, independently of the city.

This latest report from the Atlanta managers is complete at odds with what these same people were saying as late as July and August this year: and there is no specific figures anywhere in this story to indicate what has been fixed. If anything, the "numbers" are even more general than they were earlier.

I don't trust any of these supposed reassurances.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, November 11, 1999.

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