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Summary and Comments

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1998-05-01 11:06:35


No Big Problem, Except for Government



INFOWORLD (June 9, 1997) published a report on y2k. It assured readers that the problem is manageable.

INFOWORLD is primarily a PC-oriented magazine, not mainframe-oriented.

The problem is not technical, we are told; it's managerial. This false dichotomy is a familiar one. The truth is much more unpleasant: the problem is systemic. Nothing that the management of one organization can do will solve the problem, either for the company or the system. This is in part the problem of corrupt imported data. To get y2k fixed for one outfit, the vast majority of the others must also get it fixed, and fixed in a way that integrates all participants into a coherent system.

If this is not done, the systems die.

To say this is to say that y2k cannot be fixed. That's what I'm saying.

Meanwhile, we get analyses like this. No big problem, except for government. Right. No problem except for military defense, the welfare system, and fractional reserve banking, which is an adjunct of government. Other than that, no problem!

* * * * * * *

It should be obvious by now that year 2000 isn't a giant technical problem; we aren't struggling to find some complex technology that will make fixes possible. Redefining variables to accommodate four-digit dates or modifying logic to properly calculate dates after Jan. 1, 2000, is not that difficult; doing this with 100 percent accuracy in all of your organization's applications is probably impossible. After all, can you guarantee that any of your software is 100 percent bug-free?

The hurdle in the year-2000 mess is project management, not technical difficulty. In this respect, the government is in big trouble: Project management isn't exactly the feds' forte. Watch for year-2000 chaos in Washington as the deadline approaches. In general, the more bureaucratically entangled your organization is, the more likely you are to experience year-2000 catastrophe.


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