| Beat the Clock

Countdown to 2000. Most agencies are now
midway into the last phase of the largest and most complex information systems projects
they have ever managed.

The General Accounting Office has advised agencies that the final validation and
implementation phase of year 2000 computing projects cannot be done adequately in less
than a year. GAO predicted this will burn up more than half of every agency’s year
2000 resources and budget.

The watchdog group has recommended that agencies follow configuration management
procedures to document all changes, and it has endorsed computer-aided software
engineering test tools and scripts.

GAO also advised agencies to follow a disciplined regimen of unit, integration and
system testing, followed by acceptance testing in which entire information systems and
their interfaces work with operational data.

Managers should make sure they conduct forward and backward time tests as well as
regression tests to find any defects introduced with year 2000 code fixes, GAO said. The
stress tests will show whether the restructured systems can handle high-volume
transactions as well as before.

GAO also advised agencies to resolve all interagency and data exchange issues before
the acceptance testing and implementation phase. Acceptance testing should be finished no
later than September, it said, to leave time for correcting any software defects that

Crossing over. GAO also warned that making the switch
from current information systems to year 2000-ready systems will be difficult.
Complicating the switch is the fact that specific year 2000-ready databases, operating
systems, utilities or other commercial products might not yet be available.

Another complication is that replacement systems may not be ready for testing until
quite late this year. In fact, many agencies probably will be caught up in testing,
validation and correction until the last minute, and they might have to operate for a
while with dual information processing systems and databases.

Recommended reading. GAO’s guide for managing the year 2000 computing crisis is
one that every agency should have. Available on the Web at http://www.gao.gov
under Special Publications, it is titled The Year 2000 Computing Crisis: An Assessment

The publication combines the project management wisdom of the Chief Information
Officers Council’s subcommittee on year 2000, the Defense Department, the Software
Engineering Institute, IBM Corp. and others in a structured guide and checklist for
government managers.

—Florence Olsen


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