Poorly considered Year 2000 statements can create a crisis where none exists, according to industry analysts Gartner Group.
In a report out this week, Gartner analyst Andy Kyte said regardless of industry or area, politicians and Y2K programme managers should be wary of making logistically impossible Y2K recommendations, which only increase the potential for panic related behaviour.
Kyte cited as an example as US Department of the Energy (DOE) statement issued earlier this month which said it was "cautiously optimistic" that US oil supplies will not be disrupted due to Y2K related issues, but recommended that consumers and businesses should have back up fuel plans, just in case Y2K computer problems disrupt fuel supplies.
Kyte said this statement might actually create problems as customers decide to stock up on fuel at the end of the year. "Repeated severe winters have proven that the industry has adequate logistics capabilities to cope with frequent replenishments. However, if all customers suddenly expect fuel deliveries in the last week of 1999, meeting such expectations would be impossible - the industry does not have enough delivery trucks, drivers and dispatchers to meet such a request," said Kyte.
"Fuel suppliers have made good progress toward ensuring no disruption of delivery due to year 2000 related issues. Gartner sees no reason why fuel oil consumers face any measurably greater risk this winter than in any other winter, unless they create risk by jointly making requests that cannot be fulfilled."
Kyte added that almost every industry sector is vulnerable to problematic behaviour being initiated by poorly considered commentary.
He said Y2K programme managers in all industry areas must ensure that their organisation participates fully in trade association activities so that their entire industry can be perceived to be speaking with one voice.
"Individual enterprises cannot counteract clumsy advice or public panic by acting alone," said Kyte.
Industry associations should work as closely as possible with relevant government officials to ensure that the latter understand consequences before they make pronouncements," Kyte concluded.
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