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Y2K's close; we're still not ready

By William Ulrich - 11/29/99

Industry association and government spokesmen have proclaimed the Y2K problem dead.

People believe this because they ignore published status reports to the contrary, see no personal connection to the problem and listen to pundits while doing little research for themselves.

But when problems emerge, companies and governments will take the brunt of the criticism. Assessing the reality of the situation will allow organizations to respond to the public relations challenges ahead. Reality is different from what the media tell us.

In September, Cap Gemini America, an information technology consulting firm in New York, found that 44% of major companies wouldn't have their mission-critical systems compliant by January. A CIO magazine poll found that 81% of large companies weren't yet finished and that half the companies surveyed had no contingency plans. A National Federation of Independent Business study found that 40% of small businesses had done nothing about Y2K.

Where progress has been made, work completed to date remains in question. According to independent validation and verification (IV&V) studies by SEEC Inc. in Pittsburgh, the average mainframe or midrange system contains 510 date-related errors after remediation. A second study in February by Reasoning Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., found between 100 and 1,000 bugs in similar samplings. An unrelated study by SriSoft Corp. in Diamond Bar, Calif., in October discovered that testing catches 30% of Y2K bugs, while IV&V uncovers another 40% to 45%. This leaves 25% of the remaining bugs in a best-case scenario.

Statistics drawn from government hearings and Web sites paint a more detailed picture. Only 13.5% of small and midsize chemical and petroleum firms have completed Y2K preparations. The Food and Drug Administration said 4,053 high-risk biomedical devices remain noncompliant. More than half of all health care providers won't be ready. And 70% of schools are unprepared.

According to calculations found in a report by researcher Warren Bone at New York-based Westergaard.com Inc.'s Web site (www.wbn.com/y2ktimebomb/), only 75% of federal mission-critical systems will be finished by January, and the status of nonmission-critical systems remains unclear. Other reports found 13 states at risk for failures in federal benefit programs, 25% of U.S. counties with no Y2K plan, 63% of 911 call centers unprepared and Medicare provider payments facing delays.

Even best-case scenarios are imperfect. The Social Security Administration (SSA) began year 2000 efforts in 1989. In July, according to the Information Systems Accounting & Information Management Division, SSA found 1,565 year 2000 errors in mission-critical systems. Only 44% of these had been fixed as of October. SSA is still checking data and finalizing contingency plans.

What does this mean to consumers? In statements made in early November to CBS News, the State Department inspector general said, "80 countries are at moderate to high risk, and there will be failures at every economic level, in every region of the world." Nick Gogerty, an analyst at London-based International Monitoring, predicted in October that Y2K would lead to $1.1 trillion in damages worldwide, not including those from litigation and insurance costs. These costs, along with many inconveniences, will affect us next year.

Why is the government telling us that most industries are 100% Y2K-compliant when bug-free systems are a myth? The answer is that the government and selected industries don't want people to panic. But when things go wrong, people will demand answers.

What can organizations do when problems strike? First, consider that 80% of your customers expect no year 2000 problems at all. Second, don't believe your own industry hype about 100% compliance. Third, be polite and let them know we are all in this together -- for the long haul.

Most important, when future large-scale challenges arise, consider your industry's posture. The unrealistic Y2K performance expectations set by industry associations are unachievable. Finally, see if any of those high-priced public relations directors want to work your customer hot line in January. They may learn something about manipulating perceptions about matters they barely understand.


(The public is going to get very angry!)


-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), November 30, 1999


Sock it to 'em, Bill Ulrich! For those of you folks who don't know him, Bill has been in the computer field for ages. I first met him somewhere around 1989, when he and I were involved in computer-aided software engineering (CASE) tools. Among other things, he and Ian Hayes have written two of the best Y2K technical books that can be found...

He is NOT your foaming-at-the-mouth rabid lunatic. He, like a few of us in the computer field, is very, VERY concerned by the disconnect that seems to exist between the PR statements and the reality in the trenches.


-- Ed Yourdon (ed@yourdon.com), November 30, 1999.

They will get angry AFTER they panic. Pushing it off to the future won't stopit, it will only make the inevitable worse!


-- Y2Kook (Y2Kook@usa.net), November 30, 1999.

The snooze button on that alarm clock must be non-compliant ... alarm keeps going and going and going and ... :-)

Thanks snooze button, excellent post ... there are, unfortunately, WAY too many who are still asleep. Hopefully, a few more will wake up before is too late.

Any prep is better than none!

Preparation results in options ... No preparation results in ...!

-- hiding in plain (sight@edge. of no-where), November 30, 1999.


URL: http://www.computerworld.com/home/print.nsf/all/991129CE6A


-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), November 30, 1999.

"Favorited" this thread!

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), November 30, 1999.

All this, and just 14 Federal workdays left 'till the END!!!

Can you smell TOAST?!?!?

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in January.com), November 30, 1999.


-- hiding in plain (sight@edge. of no-where), November 30, 1999.

Sitting at my desk, reading this article in latest edition of Computer World - to bad Ulrich was not asked to participate on the Oprah Show.

-- gotmilk? (karlacalif@aol.com), November 30, 1999.

Great article, which I printed out to counteract the Oprah spin.

-- Mara (MaraWayne@aol.com), November 30, 1999.

Well, gosh, what do you expect from a right-wing Christian nut rag like COMPUTERWORLD? What do they know about computers, anyway? Plus, the article is dated 11/29/99 -- that's YESTERDAY for crying out loud. OLD INFO!! You can be that LOTS of Y2K progress has been made since then. And MARKET-DRIVEN MIRACLES, also!!!

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), November 30, 1999.

I love it when you get sarcastic, KOS...

-- Nabi (nabi7@yahoo.com), November 30, 1999.

Bravo Bill!

I've been reading ComputerWorld for a few years now, and they've been in the forefront when it comes to Y2K honesty. Not too many sugarcoated articles when it has come to the big oops.

-- Prince Etrigan (etrigan@rpg.net), November 30, 1999.

Agree with Ed. Bill U is one of the best in the country; frankly, there aren't many left. Trust me, I know.

-- Drew Parkhill (y2k@cbn.org), November 30, 1999.

This was posted on 11/29: Computerworld: Y2K's close; We're still not Ready. (Maybe not even Social Security). Very interesting that our resident pollys, Flint and Hoff, haven't commented on this yet. Mr. Decker almost said something, but I think even he is afraid of this one.

Come on guys, what's up with this????? We've got some big numbers here, and need to hear how it's no problem. Give us some of your polly stuff and make us feel better!

Still waiting. Tick... Tock... Tick... Tock... <:00=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), November 30, 1999.

PS - Hi Drew, long time no see! <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), November 30, 1999.

Oh, I still float around here every so often :)

-- Drew Parkhill (y2k@cbn.org), December 01, 1999.

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