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1997-03-04 00:00:00


Management Is Asleep at the Wheel: Bankruptcy Ahead


This document is a letter that was posted by a programmer. It says it all. Management in early 1997 is still oblivious to the problem. Management is unwilling to pay the price necessary to fix the problem. Managements are in the process of destroying their companies. The problem is, we are all dependent on the goods and services supplied by these companies.

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From: Grayson Lynn Subject: Re: Testing Date: Fri, 21 Feb 1997 I just got off the phone with AS/400 recruiters from two major international outsource/body shops. They can do simple arithmetic as well as the rest of us, and both have spent the last nine months lining up strike forces of Midrange talent to work Y2k issues, but they can't seem to wake up the clients (all 500,000 of them). I've also been approached by a half dozen smaller/startup operations building specialty swat teams to staff the inevitable crisis, but so far not one of them has been able to land a contract. Even when quoted billing rates that were commonplace in 1984, the clients go into sticker shock and disappear. Except in the very largest of shops, AS/400 (and S/34/36 before it) has been far too successful as the Volkswagen of business computing, letting low-cap organizations run on autopilot, allocating only 2-3% of the operating budgets to MIS. These businesses are totally unprepared and ill-equipped to cope with the prospect of a full stop in computing capability; executives are blissfully ignorant of IS issues simply because they have never had any; over the years, technical headcount and expertise have been cut to the bare minimums necessary to babysit purchased packages and crank out an occasional query for the Sales department; software vendors have dismantled their development and support crews and tuned up their sales teams to milk the cash cows bred 5, 10 or 15 years ago; training, succession planning and backup staffing perspectives have receeded to the vanishing point; perhaps one business in 100 can produce a 5-year strategic business plan that rationally addresses 21st century information issues. No mailstorms, please! There are many happy exceptions to all the above, but they _are_ exceptions. The general rule is that many small and mid-size businesses running on Midrange platforms are already doomed. The majority are blissfully unaware of the menace, those that are aware are in denial because few have the resources to act, and those who are really aware are in organizational paralysis and cardiac arrest. To get back to the subject, corporate attitudes may be the only thing for which trickle-down theories really work; few IS managers ever made brownie points by bucking the CFO. If the Chiefs say there can't be a problem, then there is no problem, and woe betide the Indian who says there is. Having served my time in the managerial barrel, I've thought about what I'd be doing in your data manager's shoes. Assuming I'd been reading the Y2k articles that are starting to gain prominence in the trade journals, I'd be stocking up on canned goods, banking the beer money, reading my C++ manuals, tuning up my resume, smiling and nodding a lot, and hunkering down to ride out the gathering storm until the company blows away. Since I'm the only one who has any clue as to what might be going on under the machine covers, they can't fire me until the last lights go out. As for testing? Hell, we've always tested live and survived; why change now? There is self-delusion, yes, not in the rank and file but on Executive Row, where new-age management has been telling itself for 20 years that the information revolution would be free. Neglected and starved for maintenance and maintainability, the systems have become like the compressor on your refrigerator, a marvelous piece of machinery while it works, but unfixable when it breaks. Y2k is not the time bomb, only the spark that will set it off.

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