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1998-01-13 10:35:26


How Peter de Jager defines "Too Late"



Peter de Jager, whose 1993 article, "Doomsday," was the first round heard in the y2k war, says that 1997's opportunity was squandered. There is not much time left to get this fixed.

This appeared in his DATAMATION column (Dec.)

* * * * * *

It was a year of opportunity seized to great effect by some. For most however, 1997's opportunity was squandered. Pity, for its loss will be sorely felt.

It is a widely held opinion that, at the very least, you should have had a detailed Year 2000 project plan in place as of 1997. This plan should chart your course through the shoals of the Year 2000 barrier and provide you with the means to sail safely into the next millennium. Not having these plans in place is like trusting your fate to a drunk, blind captain who thinks that going down with the ship is a career-advancing move. Bon voyage.

The term "The Black Zone" came from a reporter who asked me in early 1995 if it was too late for people who had not already started. "Are we in The Black Zone?" is how she phrased it. Back then, I said no, there is still time, but not much. Her question has been on my mind and the minds of others for a long time: "When is it too late?" And, "What exactly does 'too late' mean?"

For me, "too late" is when the risk of failure (i.e., failing to deliver compliant mission-critical systems on time) is too high. Personally, I believe that a 1% chance of failure is too high when discussing the possibility that services my company depends on for its day-to-day operations might fail.

The sad fact -- the one that regularly takes the wind out of my sails and the sails of the other so-called doomsayers -- is that it is too late to convince anyone who has ignored the problem to do otherwise. It's not that the time for awareness is over; it's that the people who have so far done nothing, in defiance of all the evidence, have deliberately chosen to do nothing. There is nothing you can say to them at this point in time that will convince them to change their course.

A case in point: Robin Guenier, who was the director of Taskforce 2000 in the U.K., finally convinced the Labour government that this problem is real and pressing. A week later, his contract with the government was terminated.

The lesson? Shooting the messenger is still an acceptable practice. . . .

Here are the questions you should turn your attention to: Are your business partners, both upstream and downstream on your supply chain, taking Y2K seriously? And how do you verify that without calling in the lawyers? . . .

Do you have a detailed Y2K project plan?

If the answer is no, you can skip the remaining questions and go straight to the unpleasant task of finding either a new vendor or customer. . . .

Category two: Outside links . . .

What makes this project complex is that success is just as dependent on outside companies as it is on your own internal projects. If a company, yours included, does not know what its suppliers and their vendors are doing, then there is an unknown risk lurking between you and success.

Category three: The Murphy question

What contingency plans have you put in place in case these delivery dates slip?

This is the real acid test to see if a company understands this problem. This project cannot be late--but what if it is? Of all the questions you can ask, this one is the most telling. Be prepared to respond when someone asks it of your company. What if you're late? What then?

Category four: The impertinent questions

Who is in charge of your Y2K team?

To whom does that person report and how often?


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