July, 1997 - The Year 2000 Challenge
Our book is now available - More about The Other Side of Midnight, 2000: An Executive Guide to the Year 2000 Problem - Introduction, Cover Graphic, Table of Contents, About the Authors, The 3 Rs of Year 2000, Our 20 Tips for Year 2000 Project Success
Available through direct order.
There once was a boy named Jim.
Jim went to work and,
Y2k, he wondered,
The fateful day grew near.
The new day was coming,
Jim woke with a start,
Just a few changes, just a few,
Jim flew to the office.
Oh my! Oh dear!
Wait, I hear a song. . .
Years Later . . .
Jim would tell the story of the Great Computer Crash of '00 to his grandchildren - about how he was so sure he knew and about the little things he forgot.
Computers are dumb and only work right when people tell them how. Jim thought he told them everything. But, he forgot to tell the security systems and the locks about the new Century!
The computers that controlled the security doors, locked them tight that night and went to sleep. When they awoke, they thought it was 1980.
Another strange thing happened that night. Many people reported dreaming that Mother Nature was laughing. Those that were awake, reported a flash of light - then total quiet - as if the world was holding its breath.
For many years, the world's economy revolved around computer fixers and attorneys. Everyone else was sort of dazed by the complexity of it all.
The Moral of the Story: Beware of what you think you know!
(Apologies to everyone named "Jim")
� 1997 Barbara Taylor
From The Institute for Management Excellence web site
(http://www.itstime.com), July 1997 newsletter. This verse may be copied and shared
freely, as long as it is shared in its entirety without changes and with the copyright
and source included.
We assume that those reading this newsletter topic have at least some idea what the "Year 2000 Challenge" means. For background information, see theAwareness section of Federal Year 2000 Guidance Package (other resources are listed in Resources).
A delicate balancing act
An organization's Risk factor includes consideration of how dependent they are on the various computers and electronic systems. A small company with only a few desktop computers may be able to struggle along.
Mainframe computer systems are affected by the date change. Mid-range computer systems (mini computers, networks and client/server) are affected. Desktop computers (PCs) are also affected. It is only in recent months that desktop computer manufacturers have started making their systems Year 2000 compliant.
However, it is important to remember that the Year 2000 problem affects many non-computer devices: time clocks, digital clocks, security alarms and security systems, elevators, light controls, telephone systems, answering machines, fax machines, copiers, VCRs, pagers.
For medium to large organizations, the highest risk seems to be in their computer systems. Most software designers didn't believe their systems would still be in use as we approach the Year 2000.
Up until very recently, disk storage for large computers was extremely expensive, so programmers did everything they could to use storage space as economically as possible. By doing so, they have saved large companies millions of dollars. Those savings must now be recognized and directed toward upgrading major computer systems and data files.
Potential legal and safety risks must be considered: will your manufacturing equipment stop working, will your filtration plant shut down, will your security system work properly, will your bank vault stay closed or open improperly, will your customers sue you if your computer systems don't work, will anyone's health or safety be at risk if your systems don't work properly?
According to a survey reported in CFO Magazine (April 1997), companies are in these stages of Year 2000:
The same article mentions that two insurance companies are now writing policies to cover companies who may not complete their Year 2000 work. Those policies are not cheap!
In a 1996 survey, key executives believe the Year 2000 problem is a "major business issue" (1)
The same survey asked Year 2000 Project Managers to rate factors they feel are "serious or unsolvable" (2) The top responses:
Determining an organization's risk factors is the first step in preparing for the Year 2000 date change. If you haven't already begun an assessment of your position, start today!
The clock is ticking . . . the new Century will come on time, whether you are ready or not!
Your Company's Risk options: low, medium, high, extremely high and bet-the-business. Which will you choose?
The rewards of knowing your Year 2000 exposure early are obvious. With sufficient time, you can plan your changes, upgrade your computers and other systems, correct your data files and prepare to meet the Century with some confidence.
Also, by starting early, you may be able to make many little improvements that have languished on wish lists.
By starting early, you have time to train the people who will do the work, get in your orders to vendors early, and have time to test everything at least twice.
By starting early, you can work with your customers and external business partners to ensure that your inter-linking systems are compatible.
By starting early, you can engage staff, consultants and other short-term help to assist with the work.
If you wait, the little improvements won't get done, hardware and software upgrades may be stuck in back-orders, people will be harder to find, vendors will be more expensive (if available at all), and testing will probably be less than ideal.
Jim Porter of Harvard, Porter & Associates notes, "Normally companies are advised to spend money cautiously because the future value of cash is greater than current value. In the case of Year 2000 work, the earlier you spend money on extra resources the better, because the cost of obtaining those extra resources is climbing steadily. The cost will continue to climb as demand outstrips available resources (programmers, project managers, vendors, consultants). Shortages of consultants are already occurring with 2 1/2 years left in this century."
Your Company's Reward options: Major upgrade(s), major improvement(s), minor upgrade(s), minor improvement(s), sleeping soundly at night, keeping your job, getting ahead of your competition, staying in business. Which path will you choose?
What is needed to accomplish a Year 2000 project? Resources include: time, priorities, knowledgeable people, budget for the work, vendors, "tools" (various types of computer programs to help identify the problem areas and estimate the cost to fix the problems).
The amount of resources you need depend on your risk assessment, so the sooner you know the size of your Year 2000 "problem" the sooner you will know the resources you need to correct it.
Many organizations hire a consulting firm to help with their Year 2000 projects. Information Management Resources, Inc. (IMRI) of Irvine, CA uses a four-phase approach for their clients:
Phase 1: Identification, Analysis and Estimating
Phase 2: Planning and Scheduling
Phase 3: Program and File Re-structuring
Phase 4: Testing and Implementation
Once an organization tests their own programs and systems, they must test any links with others, such as: government organizations (IRS, state tax agencies, various compliance reports) and commercial links (Electronic Data Interchanges for purchasing or customer links, Internet links, etc.). Since every organization is on their own schedule, testing the various external links may depend on many factors not under a single person's control, adding to the complexities involved.
Overall Resource options: CFO Magazine (April 1997) reports that 50% of companies attempting to fill positions in finance, accounting and information systems are being affected by a shortage of qualified applicants. In its June 1997 issue ("Revenge of the Nerds") CFO quotes Gartner Group estimates that companies will have to pay up to 75% more than they do now on their IT staffs for the next few years (until the Year 2000 problem is history).
Your Company's Resource options: Time, money, experienced people, experienced project managers, consulting firms, other vendors, Year 2000 products and tools, possible new software or software upgrade(s), possible new hardware or hardware upgrade(s). Do you know how many and which resources you will need? Have you tried to secure them lately?
(1)Source: CIO Magazine, June 15, 1997, survey by IDC Research of 500 executives
(1)Source: CIO Magazine, June 15, 1997, survey by IDC Research of 503 Year 2000 project managers
20 Tips for Success (1)
(1) Some tips provided by Jim Porter, Managing Director, Harvard Porter & Associates.
Formula for Failure #1 - Ignoring the Top 10 Reasons Why Software Projects Fail (2)
(2) Source: from an article "Sketchy Plans, Politics Stall Software Development" Computerworld, June 19, 1995
Formula for Failure #2 - Ignoring the Success Rate of Software Application Development Projects (3)
(3) Source: from an article "Tough Love Reins in IS Projects" Computerworld, June 19, 1995
Formula for Failure #3 - Ignoring the Danger Signs of Runaway Information Technology (IT) Projects (4)
Notice that ALL of these factors are present in most Year 2000 projects.
(4) Source: from an article "Before Disaster Strikes" CIO Magazine, June 15, 1993
Case Study - Large university (who asked to remain anonymous):
This university tripped over the Year 2000 problem in the late 1970's when a new enrollment projection system (which included calculations based on birth rates) began projecting into the 21st century.
The situation in mid-1997: They are compliant in some areas and behind in some areas. A large amount of production code written (or purchased) in the last 5 years is Year 2000 compliant.
The group responsible for student applications completely rewrote a major portion of their systems in the early 1990's and considered the century implications at that time.
They considered Year 2000 issues in anything else developed in the last 5 years or so. This accounts for about 60% of their software portfolio.
About 20% is purchased from vendors and is either Year 2000 compliant or the vendor has a release scheduled for this year to address Year 2000.
They are just beginning to come to grips with the final 20%, which is mostly ancient COBOL code in financial accounting and payroll applications. They have analyzed that code and elected to fix sorts, logic decisions, etc. via code rather than database structure changes.
According to their Year 2000 schedule, they are already behind the power curve and need to make significant progress in the next 6 months.
Case Study - Status of our Year 2000 effort:
What we've learned so far:
Won't Year 2000 will only affect computers that handle business applications?
Not true! Home computers, clocks, fax machines, answering machines, time clocks, electronic timing devices, drivers' licenses, credit cards, loan calculations, etc. will potentially all be affected. Even if you fix your own problems, you may have to deal with other people and organizations that have not fixed all of theirs.
Will most computer systems developed after 1980 be okay without changes?
No. In fact, most computer systems (regardless of when they were developed) did not consider the Year 2000. For most organizations, this issue is just now getting attention.
Are mainframe systems the only applications facing the Year 2000 problem?
No! In fact, all computers are faced with this problem, regardless of size.
I have a new Pentium Personal Computer. Surely it will handle the Year 2000 without problems.
Not true! Most desktop computers (PCs) will appear to be OK if the date is changed while the computer is running. However, when they restart, they will reset the system date to January 4, 1980. Some will record a hardware error, others will happily boot up without a sign that anything is wrong.
The only way to know for sure is to check each computer for hardware flaws, software errors, then check each and every data file and report for possible date issues.
Is Year 2000 a leap year?
Yes, which complicates the challenge. Special handling of leap year dates must often be added.
The estimated cost to fix Year 2000 problems in the United States alone exceeds $50 billion - this seems like a huge amount of money for a simple date change.
Paul Strassmann recently estimated the worldwide cost to fix the Year 2000 problems at more than $600 billion (far more than the combined costs of the Kobe earthquake, Southern California earthquakes in the last decade and Hurricane Andrew). (Computerworld, June 9, 1997)
The amount to fix the problem is really unknown. People who have been tracking potential changes and doing pilot projects have estimated that most organizations will be affected in some way, and that the majority of computers and systems will be affected in some way.
A major complicating factor is that the entire world is facing the same problem at the same time! It's a bit like the gasoline shortages of several years ago. Everyone is getting into the same line for the same services, creating huge overloads in demand for the same resources. The difference with the Year 2000 is that we have known about this challenge for quite a few years. With the gasoline shortages, we had much less time for planning.
Won't the Year 2000 problems mostly affect large companies?
Not true! As noted above, most computers and computer systems will be affected. In addition, many other electronic devices may be affected: fax machines, elevators, programmed devices, telephone switches, voice mail, pagers, etc.
Is it true that an application program that does not have a century field may appear to process correctly, yet give incorrect results?
It is possible for a program to run without creating an error. However, the math calculations based on date (such as a person's age), may be incorrect because they do not correctly interpret birth dates, due dates, etc. In large computer systems with huge amounts of data, a few errors may not be noticed until serious complications have arisen (such as rejecting payments, generating inappropriate late notices or calculating incorrect interest rates).
Year 2000 problems affect only the software applications; operating system software is not affected.
Not true! Different operating systems compute dates in different ways. Therefore, each one must be checked and verified that it will compute its date correctly.
Date change failures will begin to appear on January 1, 2000.
Not true! In fact, failures are already occurring and have been for quite some time. The problem will, of course, become more obvious and more destructive as we get closer to the Year 2000. Some computer programs consider years of "00" or "99" to be errors. How they handle those dates depends on the program.
Client/Server applications are not affected by Year 2000 because their operating systems have been designed to be Year 2000 compliant.
Not true! Client/server applications are at risk as much as other systems.
Most Information Systems (IS) departments have not yet taken steps to effectively deal with the Year 2000 problem.
True, according to industry surveys. In mid-1997, most IS departments are at least aware of the problem, though, a very small percentage of them really know the size of their own Year 2000 efforts as yet.
Aren't purchased package software products already Year 2000 compliant?
Not true! Until very recently, vendors were not required to make their software and products Year 2000 compliant. There are now national efforts to publicize those vendors whose programs are truly Year 2000 compliant.
Since the Year 2000 problem is an Information Technology problem, is there any reason for users to be involved in the Year 2000 project?
Not true! Desktop computers have proliferated into every area of business, individual computer users often develop their own databases and their own custom systems. These will all need to be assessed for potential problems. Since most currently used desktop computers will not correctly handle the Year 2000 date, each computer user must be aware and prepared with a plan for either replacing their hardware and/or software, or prepared to make some changes.
What is this "Program Office" I keep hearing about?
Many organizations are creating Year 2000 Program Offices, whose responsibilities will normally include Year 2000 policies, procedures, guidelines, analysis, reporting, costs and risk management.
If the Program Office will define mission critical deadlines and costs, individual operating departments do not need to make plans or allocate resources to the Year 2000 project.
Not true! Each department must determine the level of impact to their business operations. Being part of the Program Office's steering committee(s), will help the department stayed informed. Since many departments have built their own desktop (PC) applications (which may be independent of the corporate IS/IT department), they face the same issues of inventory, assessment, planning, testing and implementation. Examples of independent applications are local mailing lists/databases and internal spreadsheets.
Source: Questions & Answers from IMRI's Year 2000 training program
If you have a weak heart, don't like taking risks, hate roller coasters or are not sure you can recover properly,
No warranties are provided with these tests. We give no guarantees or assurances that these will not harm your system. We assume NO liability for fixing any problem you may create by running these tests. If your computer locks up or these tests create problems for your computer, you are on your own.
NOTE: If you are willing and able, within 5 minutes of heart-stopping anxiety you can get an up-close-and-personal perspective on the challenges involved.
Desktop Compliance Test - For PCs:
1. From your Windows 3.1 Program Manager Desktop menu select Main. [From Windows 95, select Start, then Settings, then Control Panel]
2. From Main select Control Panel.
3. From the Control Panel select Date/Time.
4. Using the up/down arrows:
5. Close the dialog box.
6. Select the Date/Time icon again.
7. The date should be 12/31/99 and the time should be advancing.
8. Wait until the date changes (should roll over to 1/1/00).
9. If the date doesn't change correctly your PC isn't Year 2000 compliant. You can set the date to 1/1/00 and continue test at Step 11 if desired, but date will fail.
10. If the date is correct continue test.
11. Close Date/Time dialog box.
12. Close Control Panel and Main. You should be at Program Manager Desktop. [In Windows 95, you should be at the main desktop].
13. Create and save a new file (select Microsoft Word, for example).
14. Select File from the menu bar.
15. Select Close from the pull down menu.
16. Exit Microsoft Word (for example).
17. Select File Manager from menu bar. [In Windows 95, select File Explorer.]
18. Select Directory where the file was stored.
19. Select View from the menu bar.
20. Select All File Details [or Details] from the pull down menu.
21. Highlight the file you created.
22. Verify that the date the file was created is correct (1/1/00). If incorrect (1/1/:0 for example) your PC is not Year 2000 compliant.
23. Delete the test file (select File, select Delete from the pull down menu, select YES from the next three dialog boxes). [Or, highlight the file and press the DELETE key]
24. Exit File Manager. [or, File Explorer]
25. Reset date and time to the correct date/time.
26. Restart your system.
[In Windows 95, restarting your computer may make your computer think that you have a hardware error, causing it to restart in Safe Mode. If so, check or enter the correct date, then restart again. It should start up properly this time and ask you to verify the date.]
To determine if your system suffers the Year 2000 CMOS RTC flaw, from a DOS prompt set the date and time as below.
Power off test:
Power on test:
Desktop Compliance Test - For Macs:
1. From the Control Panel select "Setting Date And Time."
2. Using the up/down arrows:
3. Select OK or CLOSE the dialog box.
4. Select "Setting Date And Time" again.
5. The date should be at 12/31/99 and the time should be advancing.
6. Wait until the date changes (should roll over to 01/01/00).
7. Time should be advancing.
8. Close the dialog box.
9. Create and save a file.
10. Select File from the menu bar.
11. Select Quit from the pull down menu.
12. Highlight the file you created from the Desktop.
13. Select File from the menu bar.
14. Select Get Info from the pull down menu.
15. Verify that the file create date is Jan 1, 2000.
16. If the file create date is correct your MAC computer is Year 2000 compliant . If the crate date is not correct your MAC is not compliant.
17. Delete the test file (drag the file icon to Trash can).
18. Reset the date and time to today's date and the correct time.
Source: The tests above are from the "Federal Year 2000 Guidance Package" [Comments about Window 95 added, based on our experience.]
Links to many other government and private resources are listed on the Year 2000 web sites
Page updated: May 11, 2023
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