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1998-02-11 10:02:54


The Media's Party Line: Big Firms Will Be OK; Small Firms Won't Be



This story says, basically, "No big problem." Every local executive cited in this report says his firm is either compliant now or will be soon. The repair task is relatively easy, the readers are assured.

"Big firms will make it. Small firms won't." This is the media's party line. It assumes that the bigger you are, the more money and expertise you have to fix y2k. The reporters never ask the obvious: "Since the bigger the system, the more complex it is, and the older it is, and the more legacy code and old chips it has, why is it easier for a large organization to make the repair? Also, what about management? Isn't the large system more dependent on computers than on people? Isn't the information that runs the organization less flexible and therefore more vulnerable?"

Contingency plans for a small firm are a lot easier to design and deploy than for a large one. Contingency plans for a small farm are easier to adopt than for, say, the United States military or the international banking system. But reporters never seem to ask the obvious.

This is from the St. Petersburg TIMES (Feb. 9).

* * * * * * * *

Jan. 1, 2000: Is it a date that will live in technological infamy? Or will the computers work?

If the date seems far away, it's not. Many companies and government agencies have been working on the Year 2000 problem (or "millennium bug" or "Y2K" in computer jargon) for years and have set deadlines to have the problem fixed this year -- so they can spend 1999 testing to make sure everything works. . . .

Raymond James & Associates has made a major investment in making sure its computer systems are ready for 2000.

The St. Petersburg financial services firm estimates its staff will devote between 28,000 and 32,000 programing hours to fixing the problem, according to Tim Eitel, senior vice president. The cost: between $3-million and $5-million.

"If you have a plan, it is not difficult to get your systems Year 2000 compliant," Eitel said. "Some think it's rocket science. It's not rocket scientist-type coding." . . .

Electricity will still flow and customers will still get their bills in 2000, according to both TECO and Florida Power Corp.

Florida Power installed several new computer systems over the past two years that already are compliant with the Year 2000, and work on other software applications is on schedule and should be done by the end of the year, spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said. . . .

State government has a lot of computers to check and make ready for 2000. The effort will cost Florida taxpayers between $75-million and $90-million.

"We've completed an assessment, we have a cost estimate, we have a plan that on paper has each of our 32 agencies completing necessary code changes and necessary applications by June of 1999, most by December 1998," said Glenn Mayne, project manager for the Year 2000 Task Force.

The question, Mayne said, is "whether we can execute the plan on time." . . .

Two years ago, Alfred Laiser set a goal for Pinellas County government computers to be ready by this summer, a deadline he says will be met.

"We've been very pleasantly surprised," said Laiser, director of management information systems for the county. "As people recognized the problem, there was a willingness to cooperate and come together and reach consensus." . . .

GTE got an early start on Y2K, according to spokesman Richard Engwall, and is making good progress.

"We expect to be among the first telecommunications companies to achieve compliance," Engwall said.

The phone company's timetable is to have the systems vital to its business operations and customer service ready by Sept. 30, with other, less-critical systems fixed no later than mid-1999, Engwall said. . . .

Steven Friedman's company "provides a road map to compliance" for businesses. And he says there are two types of companies that T3 Technologies ( in Tampa deals with:

"Companies that know what they're doing, that understand the problem, that have resources and money in hand to do it. They know they have to do it."

And the other?

Smaller companies that "don't have the dollars or are not convinced the problem is so severe that it will severely affect business," said Friedman, president of T3. . . .

His advice for procrastinators?

"Listen to the head of your computer department when he says you may have an expensive problem. There are solutions that are not as expensive as you may think, but nothing is as expensive as doing nothing."


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