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1998-05-01 18:09:26


IBM Symposium: Programmers Describe Their Problems



At a recent symposium held by IBM, representatives of numerous companies got together to put the y2k repair project into perspective. The perspective is of a team of people ladeling water out of the Titanic with spoons.

First off, management doesn't care, they lamented. One man put it this way: "I don't think their fear factor is high enough." He's got it.

Here is THE problem of motivation. In order to scare a senior manager enough for him to allocate sufficient funds to fix y2k (assuming y2k can be fixed), he will resign, exercise his stock options by selling them, and move to a small town. It's one of the many Catch-22's of y2k. Programmers want managers to be scared enough to fund the IT staff. They don't want them so scared that they will cash out early and then quit. What programmers want isn't happening.

This comment was especially optimistic -- not a stick, but a carrot: "I think if success stories were published it would give the IT managers some ammunition to take to their upper management. If the stories described what processes they went through to be successful, the IT managers could use those processes." Success stories? Name two.

A y2k programmers' symposium that begins in the spring of 1998 with a long discussion of ways to get management to recognize the problem is evidence that y2k is not going to be fixed. Management is not yet at the awareness stage: the first 1% of a y2k repair project.

For saying such things in public, I am dismissed by many programmers as a doomsayer. "You are not being helpful," I'm told. In short, "Pass the spoons. We can solve this if we can just get more spoons and more volunteers who are willing to volunteer for the flooded decks below."

The symposium was called, "Year 2000: An Industry View."

* * * * * * *


The year 2000 is fast approaching for the world and for your AS/400 applications. Eleven executives whose companies are moving users to the millennium met in Rochester, Minn., to discuss why many companies have failed to create a Year 2000 action plan. . . .

Harter, IMS: The date problem is still perceived as an information services problem in most of what is published today. How can we convince senior management that it is also a business problem for the entire organization?

Ron Newman, Tension Envelope: I see and hear and read a lot, and as one who is involved in the day-to-day side of the problem, I can tell you that until it strikes them, they won't pay much attention. If there was a way to determine when the first day of impact would be and what the result would be, that would get management's attention. We have to educate them more. I don't think their fear factor is high enough. The Year 2000 problem is not going to occur as a tangible thing, but if we can show them how the bottom line will be hurt, how the systems are going to fail, and why customers will be upset, it will take on a sense of reality. . . .

Dave Henderson, JD Edwards: I think we have to quantify the problem. There are a lot of modifications that are done to packaged software, and just buying packaged software is not going to solve the Year 2000 problem. I don't think management understands the size and complexity of the problem. It's not just buying a solution that's Year 2000-ready; it's a bigger problem than that.

Janet Mousley, Software Plus: I think if success stories were published it would give the IT managers some ammunition to take to their upper management. If the stories described what processes they went through to be successful, the IT managers could use those processes. . . .

Gerard Wolf, Nexgen: I don't think the IT staff is going to be able to sell the problem to their management. I see time and again that there has to be some external pressure on the management team themselves before they will be willing to listen to their IT staff. I think they will only listen when they start looking at their supply chains. The weakest link is going to bring them down.

Harter, IMS: What are some of the myths that are pervasive about Y2K?

Kelley, ASC: One of our prospects said that their vendor was going to deliver a Year 2000-ready solution in December of 1998 and they were going to stick with it.

Smith, YCHANGE: Some customers that I have called on actually believe that a new operating system from IBM is going to fix all their problems.

Henderson, JD Edwards: There's a myth that customers only need to call their application vendor to become Year 2000-ready. Some customers believe that we are blasting our competitors when we try to find out what other software they've loaded and which interfaces they are using so that we can determine who they should call. It's a challenge for us as a software vendor. . . .

Brian Brown, Century: Every time somebody goes into a program and fixes something, they break something else. As far as Year 2000 goes, every time you get into a maintenance approach, you leave something out and you end up doing the job five times, or ten times. The work can be assisted by tools, it can be done manually, and you can put resources on it, but you need to know what it is you're setting out to do.

Mousley, Software Plus: You can't just isolate certain programs. If you do, it will be a never-ending cycle, and you'll never finish.


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