The problem of importing noncompliant data is not receiving much attention.
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The pages of the information technology trade press have already been littered with articles mapping concerns over the magnitude of the Year 2000 "problem." Conservative global projections peg the cure cost at $50 billion, but industry insiders believe that this figure will only cover the U.S. challenge. Regardless of the exact figures, it is apparent that this issue represents MIS' largest organizational challenge to date. Failure to properly address the situation could lead to wholesale system crashes January 1, 2001 - or worse, systems may not fail, but rather generate corrupted data throwing public and private sectors into chaos. Moving beyond the obvious discussions, this paper provides insight on the true scope of the situation and more significantly, it offers perspective solutions. . . . .
Regrettably, the year 2000 challenge does not end when you have fixed your internal systems. Looking at the challenge on the micro level - in many organization's complex environments - systems which contain date information feed other systems. At the macro level in today's global economy, where organizations are trading information and significantly using external information as data input for their calculations, it will be critical to ensure that partners/suppliers are Year 2000-compliant. Even where imported data contains no date information organizations need to be careful. In these environments, even if a group is able to identify all of its date dependencies and solve its local year 2000 liability, established internal and external interrelations can leave the door open for departments and organizations to import Year 2000 corruption - the "Year 2000 virus."
The dangers of "catching" a data corruption "virus" from another department or organization are an important, yet largely ignored consideration. Growing reliance on web-based processing models is driving greater interrelation among organizations, thereby increasing the dangers associated with the Year 2000 virus threat.
This "contamination" threat has the potential to drive significant legal liabilities. Organization's must conduct extensive testing to ensure that their systems are truly Year 2000-compliant before claiming compliance. In the event that an organization claiming to be Year 2000-compliant pushes out data with a Year 2000 bug to a partner, and that data is shown to have compromised a major system or transactions process, the liability could be enormous.
Harry Boxall is the Director, Year 2000 Practice for IMI Systems, Inc., an international computer professional services firm, founded in 1979 and now with a staff of over 2,800 professionals and 30 offices in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. He is responsible for IMI's Year 2000 business and strategy as well as overseeing Year 2000 projects. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.