Center for Y2K & Society: Benefits Derived From Organizations' Y2k Preparations Survey : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The Center for Y2K & Society - works with nonprofit organizations and foundations to respond to the serious societal impacts resulting from the Y2K computer problem.

Y2K Benefits


The following report represents the interim findings from the Center's Y2K Impact Monitoring Project, a proactive outreach campaign to assess the Y2K post-rollover status of healthcare, environmental, and social service organizations nationwide. In the two weeks following the January 1st rollover, between 70 and 100 telephone calls a day were made by the Project's staff to organizations in the above-mentioned areas across the U.S.

Respondents cited the following benefits resulting from their organization's Y2K preparations: 1) Y2K presented a hard deadline, 2) increased external communication and collaboration, and 3) prompted internal organizational improvements.

(The Center thanks the Project research team: John Papa, Will Hayden, Jennifer Semanoff-Odintz, and Stephen Outlaw.)

View the list...

-- Diane J. Squire (, January 20, 2000




[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

1. Hard Deadline Forced Action
Y2K presented a hard deadline of December 31, 1999 by which all organizations had to ensure compliance.

 Forced disaster preparedness -- organizations and communities had to reexamine their disaster contingency plans.

Example: Multiple Red Cross chapter representatives reported an increased demand for presentations on disaster preparedness. They used Y2K as an opportunity to encourage agencies and individuals to stockpile food, water, and other supplies that are necessary for all types of disasters.

 Focused attention on needed improvements -- outdated technology was upgraded and insufficient inventories were improved.

Example: Many State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) commented that their systems were upgraded significantly and the potential for problems motivated increased budgets for new computers and software.

 Demanded individual and organizational action -- the immovable deadline forced people to overcome resistance once the business case for Y2K was presented to top leadership.

2. Increased External Communication and Collaboration
Y2K preparedness efforts highlighted the need for cooperation among organizations and their respective stakeholders.

 Created new external communication channels and improved existing ones

Example: Until the State of Oregon began its remediation process, it did not know how some of its agencies were inter-linked and shared redundancies within their communication systems.

 Identified key people and fostered relationships with them -- organizations had an opportunity to develop relationships with community leaders through meetings, forums and conference calls.

Example: Tenderloin 2000 CAN, San Francisco, CA, a Center grant recipient, was able to establish communication channels with Y2K activists in their community and around the country in order to exchange ideas, compare experiences and provide support.

 Provided increased visibility of nonprofits -- respondents noted that the increased funding they received to address the Y2K problem not only benefited them but provided their organization with increased exposure.

Example: Mercy Medical Center, Williston, ND, noted that the Y2K education pamphlet produced with the grant from the Center was "extremely well-received and could not be restocked fast enough." IS Director Sean Key stated that Mercy Medical Center is "forever indebted to the Center for making the money available to them and giving them a greater presence in their community."

Example: Clinic Oli Napa, CA, through the assistance of the Center, received nationwide attention on their Y2K problems, prompting ABC News to donate several new Pentium computers to replace their outdated systems.

3. Prompted Internal Organizational Improvements
Y2K provided organizations with an impetus to evaluate themselves and their operating systems.

 Increased non-profits volunteer base -- many respondents noted that new volunteers who aided in their Y2K preparation efforts remained involved in the program after the rollover.

Example: Ethiopian Community Services in California used volunteer college students to assess whether their computers were Y2K compliant. Many of these students have agreed to continue to provide technical assistance on a volunteer basis.

 Created more effective internal communication systems -- many organizations established clearly defined staff roles and communication methods in case of a disaster.

 Mandated more efficient technological systems -- the need for Y2K compliant hardware and software lead to increased efficiency for many organizations.

Example: Most State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs), environmental organizations, health clinics and nursing homes commented that with their new systems they would be able to provide services and perform tasks more efficiently.

 Highlighted the need for resourcefulness within individual organizations -- nonprofits had to find ways to make the most of the limited financial resources they had in order to prevent an interruption in service to those dependant upon them.

Example: Some financially strapped organizations set their fax machines back 28 years so they would still function properly and not have to be replaced. (Every 28 years the days of the week and the leap day are aligned.)


The following Y2K observations and lessons learned were cited by respondents and by Center research staff.

1. Increased awareness of societal interdependence

The existence of so few significant Y2K-related problems is an indication of the committed and collaborative efforts, particularly just prior to and during the rollover, of numerous individuals and groups nationwide. The culmination of these efforts demonstrates what can be achieved when people work together for a common cause.

2. Provided a model of government facilitated action

Government outreach efforts, at the national, state, and local level, spearheaded widespread preparation efforts with little or no additional need for legislation or regulation. The President's Council on Y2K and the community preparedness working groups are two examples that in hindsight can be identified as "best practices".

3. Emphasized the need for internal organizational assessment

The Y2K experience provided an imperative for organizations to conduct a self-assessment of their staff, technological resources and disaster preparedness. This is an initiative that all organizations should undertake on a periodic basis.

4. Highlighted our widespread technological vulnerability

The Y2K problem served as a prime example of how dependent our society has become upon technology. People have recognized the fallibility of computer systems and the importance of having contingency plans in place should those systems fail. They have also learned not to take our infrastructure for granted.

Caution: Not just a January 1st issue

While critical Y2K-related occurrences have been averted nationally, there is still the potential for problems in the coming weeks and months as systems generate their bills, payments and monthly or quarterly reports. Organizations should continue to monitor their various stakeholders in order to identify and resolve any potential problems before their data is in any way corrupted.

-- Diane J. Squire (, January 20, 2000.

"4. Highlighted our widespread technological vulnerability

The Y2K problem served as a prime example of how dependent our society has become upon technology. People have recognized the fallibility of computer systems and the importance of having contingency plans in place should those systems fail. They have also learned not to take our infrastructure for granted. "

We have all learned lessons concerning this point. Y2K and preparations for it have made us aware of our previous slumber.

-- snooze button (, January 21, 2000.

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