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1998-01-10 15:02:11


Consultant Says That American Firms Are Dragging Their Feet



Jim Seymour is a columnist for PC Magazine. I have read his column for a decade or more. In this essay, he tells of his y2k consulting work for large firms. Things are not good, he says. "I've been confident that American business, indeed global business, would address this problem early, aggressively, effectively. I was wrong. They didn't. We didn't."

This is from PC MAGAZINE (Jan. 10).

* * * * * * * *

As many of you know, I wear a second hat, beyond that of PC Magazine columnist. I run a consulting practice that works with large and medium-size companies in North America, Europe, and Asia on information strategy issues. . . .

No part of our consulting practice has been more complex or more frustrating over the past few years than what is generally known as the "Y2K Problem." . . .

Y2K issues form an increasingly large part of my work, but only a part. I'm not a Y2K specialist, but I find that many, many firms, including some surprisingly large ones, have continued to drag their feet on fixing Y2K-related computing infrastructure problems and now won't possibly be ready to avoid disastrous problems come that cold January morning.

For one thing, virtually everyone competent in the Y2K analysis-and-fixes business is already fully booked through January 1, 2000, and beyond. Companies with Y2K problems now often cannot find people to work on those problems. Not just enough people, but any people.

Some of these firms hold your money -- in bank accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, and so forth. Or your continuing income -- in salary and accounting routines, personnel files, and retirement benefits. Or they control processes essential to your daily routine and well-being, from the operation of emergency rooms and blood banks, drawbridges, and toll gates to the scheduling of airline flights and passport issuance. You will not be happy when they can't service your withdrawals, properly credit your payments, let you on the tollway, and get you to Toledo or Rome. . . .

What about your suppliers' Y2K compliance? In an era of ubiquitous electronic data interchange, what if only 20 percent of your suppliers--in my experience, a wildly optimistic number--haven't fixed their Y2K issues by January 1, 2000? Can you build cars with everything in place except, say, a carburetor and a gas tank? Can you operate any business with a few weak-links-in-the-chain rogue suppliers in your network? Hmm? . . .

I've avoided writing a Y2K Fears column until now because I find it unseemly to be associated with the sky-is-falling types. I've been confident that American business, indeed global business, would address this problem early, aggressively, effectively.

I was wrong. They didn't. We didn't.


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