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1997-06-19 00:00:00


Expert Says It's Too Late to Revise Existing Code



Peter G. W. Keen is one of the most published men on the Web. Search his name on Alta Vista, and you get pages and pages of entries. He is a specialist in business management and Information Technology departments. His latest book was published by Harvard Business School Press. His June 16, 1997, article in COMPUTERWORLD announces: "Year 2000: give up, move on - now."

We're out of time. Stop trying to fix the legacy systems. Instead, build new systems using new software. "Don't even try to solve the year 2000 problem," he warns. "You can't fix it, and the cost of trying will put your firm's infrastructure at risk. Accept defeat."

He's right. It's too late. Except for heading off post-2000 lawsuits, there is no reason to try. (If the courts don't survive because the banks don't survive, the threat of lawsuits disappears. That's the good side of y2k.)

This means that whatever y2k can do, it will do. However small or large this threat is, it cannot be stopped.

"The problem is far worse than the pessimists believe. Gartner Group's much-cited figure of $600 billion to fix it is misleading. If God or Bill Gates wrote out a check for the full amount, nothing much would change. The year 2000 problem is a people- and time-resource issue, not just a financial one. You can't buy time at any price."

My view: Too bad there's not enough time to port all of the data in the legacy systems into new systems. Too bad it will take programmers far longer than we have until 2000 to design, code, and test new systems of 100 million to 500 million lines of code.

Also: Too bad it's illegal for firms in many industries, such as insurance, banking, mortgage companies, and universities, to tamper with archived data. They must convert the stored information without in any way altering it. How can this be done with the tools, programmers, money, and time remaining? It can't.

It's over. The only question now is this: How extensive is "it"?


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