Beat the Clock

Beat the Clock

The El Ni'o of IT. In the hearts and minds of information technology managers as well as citizens, the year 2000 rollover will be the scapegoat for every systems failure. That's the prediction of Lee Freeman, IT strategist for the Cutter Consortium research group of Boston.

'Y2K is going to be blamed for everything,'' Freeman said. 'Suppose next June you go to the motor vehicle office to renew your registration and find the wrong car listed. It could have been from some other cause, but Y2K is going to take the blame.''

Managers will justify themselves for years to come, he said, by claiming, 'We could have fixed it, or implemented electronic commerce or whatever'' if not for the year 2000 interruptions.

Freeman said he believes the most serious effects will come not from systems breaking down or corrupting data, but from people's unanticipated perceptions and reactions. 'The stakeholders that expect the problems then go bring on the problems,'' he said.

Drumbeat. Freeman said the media countdown to Dec. 31 is 'whipping people into a frenzy. It will start showing up dramatically in the next 60 days.'' But asked whether he thought the crisis has been overhyped, Freeman said no.

'It's not overhyped when governments are spending billions on a problem that wasn't even on their radar screens a few years ago. It's still a bona fide problem,'' he said. Freeman said he expects the ripple effects from international supply chain disruptions will probably have the most serious and unexpected fallout.

Lockdown. Cutter Consortium's chairman, Ed Yourdon, reported that 36 percent of IT organizations in the group's most recent survey are planning or have instituted a system freeze, or lockdown, for the rest of 1999. They are avoiding enhancements, upgrades and installations to stabilize code fixes and systems as much as possible. Last-minute repair efforts, he said, always carry the risk of introducing a new bug.

Yourdon predicted that widespread lockdowns will cut the revenues of leading hardware makers, except for last-minute purchases of new PCs to replace those that cannot be upgraded. The financial effect will be worse, he predicted, for software vendors.

And what if the first few months of 2000 turn out to be as ho-hum as the Global Positioning System rollover in August and the noncrisis of Sept. 9, when many databases were supposed to break down but didn't?

Yourdon's crystal ball says there could be an explosion of new computer initiatives starting early in 2000, based on the psychological significance of the transition to 2000.

'Susan M. Menke

Internet: [email protected]


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