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1997-10-30 09:11:39


The Illusion of Salvation from Indian Programmers



Procrastinating businessmen may think they can go to India and get the y2k problem solved cheaply and quickly. It's another version of the silver bullet. The problem is managing the repair.

Will any businessman trust the survival of his company to Indian programmers? I doubt it. Besides, the U.S. needs 500,000 to 700,000 additional experienced programmers. India hasn't got anywhere near this many. Besides, the rest of the world needs programmers.

Denial is everywhere. Procrastination is normal. The two are working in tandem on y2k.

All of this is to say that y2k will not be fixed in time. Count on it. Plan for it.

* * * * * * * *

IT managers contemplating an offshore solution need to worry about everything from communication problems to security to what might be called the Nike Effect-political backlash from a decision to hire international labor at cheaper-than-domestic rates. Although converting code for the year 2000 is regarded as being straightforward, even tedious, work, it's amazing how complicated it can get when the programmers are 12,000 miles away. Even with rapid improvements in electronic messaging and telecommunications, poor communication is the problem most frequently cited by IT managers involved with offshore projects.

"We didn't know how bad it was until we started testing and the program failed completely," says Sam Suaudom, IS client manager at South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. His first experience using offshore programmers came in 1993, with a vendor he declines to name. "I blame it on poor communications. We couldn't communicate easily electronically. What we got back didn't conform to our standards." . . . .

Perhaps the most critical consideration is the relative complexity of the work to be done, which in the case of year 2000 compliance is almost always underestimated. Offshore projects work well when requirements are frozen, but they work poorly when requirements are constantly changing. That could be bad news for companies that are trying to beat the clock by rewriting and downsizing as many applications as possible from mainframes to client-server. They may change their year 2000 requirements so often that attempting to manage the work offshore would be a nightmare. "There's a misconception that year 2000 work is always sort of mundane, when in reality it can be very complex," says Kamal Bhadada, a Tata project manager who has worked on-site to coordinate the offshore year 2000 conversion work of NASD Regulation, Nasdaq's regulatory arm, since May 1995. "It requires a lot of understanding of the company. And most systems aren't well documented."


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