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1997-12-30 16:55:56


Big Problem? Still No Agreement Among Experts



Will y2k be a big problem? The experts do not agree. Anyway, a few of them say they think things will go all right, sort of, all things considered. Problem: they offer no evidence. Those who say it's going to be a mess have lots of evidence.

This, from the WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL (Dec. 25).

* * * * * * * *

Is there enough time to stop a computer glitch from turning the dawn of the 21st century into a technological train wreck?

Pull up a chair; it's one of the most bizarre debates going. . . .

We're projecting 30 percent (of organizations) will have mission-critical system failures," said Matt Hotle, research director at the Gartner Group, a Connecticut consulting firm.

Nonsense, say many corporate and government officials who insist that their year 2000 problems will be fixed well before the witching hour.

"The average person won't have to worry about it at all," said Ron Cytron, a computer science professor at Washington University in St. Louis. "It involves a lot of hard work, but it'll get done." . . .

How to fix the bug is known and requires no technical genius. Instead, because so many dates are so deeply embedded in so much software in so many systems around the world, the remedy depends on whether people put in the arduous, labor-intensive and expensive work required to do the job. . . .

Eugene Ludwig, the U.S. comptroller of the currency, recently told a gathering of business executives that his initial doubts were misplaced and that the bug is, "if anything, more serious than we had imagined." . . .

At giant brokerage house Merrill Lynch nearly 100 people are working full time to correct more than 170 million lines of code in its worldwide operations. Estimated cost: $200 million. . . .

Leon Kappelman, a computer systems professor at the University of North Texas and co-chairman of a year 2000 working group of the international Society of Information Management, talks to people in the trenches and doesn't like what he hears.

"At this point, we have so much work to do we can't possibly get it done," said Kappelman, who periodically surveys the society's membership of 2,700 information technology managers, academics and consultants, to get a sense of what companies and other agencies are actually doing to solve the problem.

From his most recent survey, Kappelman estimates that between 25 percent and 40 percent of the nation's companies and agencies are doing "real work." Between 35 percent and 50 percent aren't doing anything, and the rest are still "planning." . . .

Some await a quick technological fix that won't materialize. Although there are many tools available that might help companies automate the process, there are so many computer languages, and so much customization of software over the years, that no single solution exists.

Information systems workers also are notorious for not finishing projects on time.


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