Agencies analyze Y2K efforts to raise IT savvy

Federal officials are studying their successful year 2000 fixes as a way of boosting other information technology efforts.

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

Federal officials are studying their successful year 2000 fixes as a way of boosting other information technology efforts.

John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, joked that the year 2000 efforts may have been too successful. But accusations that the date change crisis was a hoax are probably the best measure of good performance, Koskinen said.

'Fortunately there were enough problems to show people that it could have been a very significant problem,' he said this month at a Washington conference on the silver linings of the year 2000 challenge.

Three months after the date change, most agencies report that year 2000 fixes have been helpful.

'Not to get too 'rah-rah, go team, go' here, but virtually everything we have done this [past] year has been centered upon becoming ready for Y2K,' said John Folz, a computer specialist at the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service. But there have been many side benefits, he said.

'As a matter of fact, the collateral benefits have been so great, sometimes we forget that we are performing these efforts as part of our Y2K readiness campaign,' Folz said in a report published by the GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions.

'The IT infrastructure and mechanisms for more effectively managing it have been modernized,' said the final report from the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, Y2K Aftermath'Crisis Averted.

Koskinen said the benefits spread into many areas. Most significant was IT's elevation to the senior management level; technology was moved out of the IT shops and techies worked with program managers, he said.

'One thing that Y2K really taught senior executives is they have to make important decisions about technology, and you don't need to know anything about bits and bytes,' Koskinen said.

Year 2000 repair efforts can be applied to other areas, experts suggest. Most of the big IT problems are symptoms of poor IT quality practices, said Leon A. Kappelman, an associate professor at the University of North Texas' College of Business Administration.

Agencies must now realize, he said, that they need to:

•'Keep an inventory of their assets, and track those inventories

•'Implement a change-control process

•'Implement standards

•'Focus on quality and testing

•'Remember that project management counts.

'These are things that we should have been doing all along,' he said, but if executives do not use the year 2000 fix as an opportunity to change practices, the 2000 problem will be just a signal of what's ahead.

GSA's year 2000 report can be found online at policyworks.gov/org/main/mg/intergov/silverlinings.pdf. The Senate committee's final report can be found at www.senate.gov/~y2k/documents/final.pdf.

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