| Beat the Clock

Oldies but goodies. The
National Finance Center in New Orleans has managed its year 2000 project without a large
contingent of extra contractors, dollars or automated tools.

The reason is Ed McManus, who said he manages projects the only way he knows how:
“the old-fashioned way.”

“I get good people I can depend on, give them direction and stay on top of them,
and that’s how we pulled it off,” said McManus, former associate director of the
IRM Division at the center. Now he manages its year 2000 readiness project.

The cross-servicing center, run by the Agriculture Department, has 1,800 federal
employees and a couple hundred contractors. The year 2000 work was done by 200 federal
employees, mostly from the Applications Systems Division, McManus said.

Bring ‘em back. He brought back four
retired employees to work at full salary under waivers to the regulation that prevents
double-dipping by government retirees.

The four have aggregate experience adding up to 140 years, and, McManus said, each of
them has been able to do the work of two or three contractors.

Two of the four rehired employees were already working part time, two days a week, on
the year 2000 project. They had accepted reduced pay because they enjoyed the challenge,
McManus said.

Earlier this year, the Office of Personnel Management issued waivers for rehires
engaged in year 2000 work, letting them return without salary reductions to offset their
monthly retirement annuities.

NFC so far has spent $8 million on its year 2000 effort, most of it this fiscal year,
McManus said, and not much of it for new tools.

The center had made large investments over the years in software from Computer
Associates International Inc., especially CA-IDMS databases. When the programmers needed
code assessment tools, they turned to CA-Examine 3.1 and CA-Impact 2000.

“The best method was to go through the code line for line,” McManus said.

Programmers burrowed through 23.5 million lines of Cobol code and old IDMS databases to
find and fix the two-digit year dates that could cause problems in central accounting,
administrative payments, payroll and the government’s popular Thrift Savings Plan.

“It was like going into an old closet,” McManus said.

Tools but not factories. McManus tried a
factory tool, thinking it might expedite the project. He decided it added to the burden of
the center’s database administrators.

“I thought we went faster and cleaner doing it ourselves,” he said.

For the next big phase, validation testing, McManus and his staff will load their
applications onto an IBM OS/390 time machine and watch what happens as they run a date
simulator on the corrected code.

—Florence Olsen

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