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1998-01-06 09:23:53


Tools, Yes; Silver Bullets, No



This story explains that businesses do use software tools to speed up y2k repairs. The problem is that earlier reports by uninformed journalists have spread the idea that this or that tool can solve the y2k problem. It cannot. Many of them reduce work by as much as one-third for certain kinds of repairs.

One reason why businesses are turning to tools and outside repair firms is that resources are running out. This includes time. Companies are being forced to use these tools.

If any previous silver bullet could have solved y2k, we would no longer have the problem. Yet stories about these tools still surface. Readers think: "Well, that other tool didn't work the way it was reported, but maybe this one will!" No, it won't. Anyone who believes that it will is wasting precious time to prepare for the day the Millennium Bug bites. Hope is cheap until reality strikes. People prefer hope to reality.

This report appeared in INFORMATIONWEEK (Jan. 5).

* * * * * * *

This year will be crunch time for industrywide year 2000 compliance efforts, and the smart companies are looking at the problem comprehensively. "The pressure is mounting, and the more this pressure mounts, the more erratic people will respond when they find out just how much work there is," says Michael Sanders, VP of information services for Commerce Bancshares Inc. in Kansas City, Kan.

According to projections from Gartner Group Inc., more than half of all companies worldwide won't be properly prepared for the year 2000 problem. Due mostly to a narrow scope of vision, companies are either deluding themselves about their level of preparedness, or they're underestimating the size, cost, and time it will take to complete such an effort. That's why more companies are turning to automated testing and compliance tools to help accelerate the process. . . .

"The biggest trend we see is that companies are not as far along as they hoped to be," says Mastech's Zivan. Mastech offers automated year 2000 solutions, called SmartApps, across multiple platforms. Mastech's year 2000 development is based on a "factories" approach:It creates economies of scale and support across all platforms and equipment. Mastech addresses mainframe and client-server platforms, and most programming languages. Mastech's customers include IBM and EDS. . . .

After querying vendors about their compliance schedules, Sanders says he understands why most companies-including his own-are looking for automation. "There aren't enough resources to go around," he says. "The market is tight, and the number of people available to help is scarce." Sanders defines resources as Cobol programmers who know the technology and who can correct a problem when testing isn't working. "That's why finding a system that will automate the project is important for us," Sanders says. . . .

Some vendors and users say that, in addition to all of the work involved with approaching a definition of compliance, and implementing that definition effectively, there is still the task of surveying suppliers, partners, banks, and customers. This process not only creates more questions, it adds some unspoken elements to the year 2000 effort:assessment, testing, implementation-and risk management. . . .

As the time ticks away toward the year 2000, that level of trust in vendors and partners, their tools, their services, and their level of compliance will be mandated by the pressure to meet internal deadlines. As with most things in life, the more you prepare and test, the better you perform.


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