| Beat the Clock

Despite the intense public focus
on Jan. 1, 2000, GartnerGroup predicts that only about 10 percent of all year 2000-related
problems will show up in the two weeks after Jan. 1.

Most organizations’ contingency plans are overly concerned with Jan. 1, ignoring
other critical dates, said Lou Marcoccio, year 2000 research director for the Stamford,
Conn., information technology research firm.

GartnerGroup predicts that organizations in fact will experience a rash of year
2000-related processing errors beginning this July.

It estimates that 25 percent of all year 2000-related errors will happen this year,
mostly in the second half.

Hot time in July. That’s because many
organizations begin the fiscal year in July and have six-month forecasting systems that do
forward-date processing.

In October, the error rates will rise because there are more single-quarter forecasting
systems than any other type, Marcoccio said.

October is also when the federal government and one-third of U.S. companies start the
new fiscal year. If electronic systems still have date-related system defects in October,
that’s when they will start to surface.

“Most organizations’ contingency plans are not considering these dates, and
that’s totally incorrect,” Marcoccio said. GartnerGroup predicts 55 percent of
year 2000-related problems will occur throughout next year but will taper off in the
fourth quarter. Another 15 percent will not erupt until 2001, the research firm said.

Eyes off the ball. GartnerGroup analysts
said 10 percent of all year 2000-related faults will take two days or longer to correct
before the affected systems can come back online.

More startling are new GartnerGroup statistics indicating that 6 percent of new
commercial software releases are not year 2000-ready, even though they succeed official
releases that are 2000-ready.

Software developers did lots of testing of their 2000-ready releases, thinking they had
little reason to worry about the follow-on versions. “The software companies have
basically taken their eyes off the ball,” Marcoccio said.

He said the problem only worsens with greater size and complexity—for example, in
products such as Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, which has needed five successive patches to
achieve year 2000 readiness.

  —Florence Olsen

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