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1998-04-16 18:04:52


Government Noncompliance Will Create Corporate Noncompliance



The government forces corporate America to interface its computer systems with the government's systems. This will bring down corporate America if the government doesn't get its computers compliant.

This assumes that corporate America will get its computers compliant -- an assumption for which evidence is lacking.

This is from COMPUTERWORLD (April 13).

* * * * * * * *

Here's a problem all companies face: Key players in their electronic relationship chain are either reporting that they have no budget for handling the year 2000 problem or that they are in the early stages of planning and lack staff. What do you do? Drop them? Demand they demonstrate year 2000 compliance quickly?

Not if they're government agencies.

Like it or not, your company's information systems are in partnership with government information systems. That makes their year 2000 problem your year 2000 problem.

At the federal, state and local government levels, IS is woven into the fabric of business. It's an integral part of any firm's supply chain and electronic commerce, as a purchaser, a standard-setter and a catalyst for extending electronic commerce across small and large firms. It affects administrative systems that address workers' compensation, state and local taxes, regulatory compliance, insurance and health care. . . .

Even if your firm succeeds in slaying the year 2000 dragon, it won't be able to bypass the federal, state and local government information systems that assuredly won't be fixed. They include the following: state regulatory, licensing, tax and social services agencies; domestic and foreign customs agencies; government procurement and payment systems; and health care agencies. . . .

IS groups in most agencies, other than Defense, and almost all local government units are understaffed, overloaded, underfunded and underpaid. Many of the best will leave; they know about the labor shortage and the demand for experienced Cobol and maintenance programmers for fixing the year 2000 crisis. . . .

One large firm I'm working with operates in many countries, with frequent and complex time-dependent imports and exports of heavy manufacturing equipment. It has to get licenses and approvals from European and Asian governments. Guess what? It looks as if none of the key customs agencies, licensing authorities and ports it deals with has even begun work on year 2000. Several haven't even heard of the problem. Many are using software bought from U.S. vendors and maintained by non-English-speaking IS staff.

In the U.S., IT systems for social services, health care administration and transfer payments are as far down the priority chain for year 2000 as, say, human resource systems are in most companies. The pension and benefits systems in a bank aren't "mission-critical." It's likely they will be year 2000 disasters. The government systems they interact with and depend on will be disasters, too. Companies will be besieged by lawsuits from retired or ill workers put into crisis situations because their workers' compensation, health insurance payments or pensions were misprocessed. It doesn't matter if it's the fault of, say, the state's Department of Social Services -- it's your responsibility as an IS manager in the firm where the employee worked. . . .

The fundamental new principle in IS is partnerships, partnerships, partnerships -- with suppliers, customers, industry consortia, research communities, systems integrators and strategic vendors. Please add government IS to the list.


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