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1998-01-07 18:47:43


German Businessmen: Far, Far Behind


This appeared on Peter de Jager's discussion forum. It deals with the remarkable indifference about y2k among senior-level German businessmen.

My thought: all talk about "good, old fashioned American ingenuity" is irrelevant if the rest of the world doesn't get this fixed. (Yes, I received just such a letter from someone in the Coast Guard, who assured me I am all wrong about y2k because: "First, I think you underestimate the ability of the human, and more specifically the American, spirit to adapt and overcome. I think you underestimate our ingenuity as well." Run up the flag. Let's all salute.

Then buy a power generator and 5,000 gallons of fuel.

* * * * * * * *

Date: Wed, 7 Jan 1998 09:44:54 -0500 (EST)

From: "Lutz.Eckert"

In January 1997, we made a first Y2K-mailing to the CEO's, CIO's, CFO's and the second level management in the German Insurance Industry. Even knowing a lot of them personally, the return quote on that mailing was less than 0.2%. Usually on mailings with any other topic we expect and experienced a general return quote of at least 3-6%. This was a shocking experience for us. A second similar mailing in June delivered the same results. In August we changed our marketing policy, emphasizing more the professional Y2K-Audit than the Change-Factory issue. Even in December 1997, we experienced a return quote of less than 1% (17 out of 2,200).

So the interest seems to be on a extreme low level. We did a lot of brainstorming together with similar operating firms and we did some market research. . . .

There is litarally no awareness at all that the Y2K virus can endanger the whole company. Thus, even many IS managers think, the regular maintenance budget will do, it just have to be done within those limits as "my CEO/CFO definitively will not give me any additional money..."

It explains a lot of the hesitation or even ingorance. We often heard: "My boys will solve that Y2K Problem in 8 weekends..." or "It just can't cost that much because we don't have the money..." or "This is just a big hype for the benefit of the consultants, we donĄt agree with that...". More common that you might assume is the cumulated view of all the programmers in an enterprise:" We just don't have a Y2K-problem," which is in a certain way true in their way of looking at it (micro) but not true at all by looking at it in the macro view of the whole company.

In Germany, in 1993, the postal ZIP-codes changed. Many consultants that time made huge hype about the impact on the business and the cost of getting compliant with that challenge. Most of the companies got it done in time and with a much lower budget than estimetaed by the majority of the consultants. That experience is blocking to a great extend the awareness of the possible Y2K impact additionally.

You wonder about the figures you read in the papers. British Telecom estimates, as far as I read, about 1000 million $, the German Telekom about 40 million $ for the Y2K conversion. All the figures I read about in the German press are compared to the US or British or Swedish figures underestimated by a factor of at least 10 to 50. The only high figure I heard of was the estimate of Deutsche Bank with some 300 million $. . . .

Many of the IS directors in charge today are of age 50+, having grown up in the business for mostly 20 to 30 years. We often heard that a planned early retirement within the next two years for many of them is of personally much higher attraction than helping their company to solve the Y2K struggle -- bad news is not good for the eve of a retirement. . . .

Even IBM, mailing all their german clients in respect of the awreness problem in Germany, even the "Jahr-2000-Initiative", a joint-venture of some large Software Consulting Companies lead by Frank Sempert, even Siemens Nixdorf and others are in great concern about the awareness in this country, as are we in terms of our own professional services. Most conferences in 1997 were visited by 5 to 25% of the expected audience and I heve seen conferences attended by a large majority of consultants instead of potential clients. And, sad enough, that is not due to the fact that all the clients are working stiffly on their Y2K conversion. . . .

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