Companies that have not got Year 2000 conversion projects underway already must accept that they are not going to meet the deadline and must initiate damage-limitation projects for their core systems.
That was the underlying message in two downbeat presentations from leading Year 2000 gurus at last week's Database and Client-Server World conference in Boston, US.
High profile consultants, Ken Orr and Peter de Jager, were markedly pessimistic in their warnings to an audience made up of IT managers from leading US companies, attending the Year 2000: issues and answers conference stream at the event.
There are still people who think Bill Gates is going to come up with an answer to this crisis, claimed Orr, in a keynote address entitled 'Too late, what do we do now?'
"There's a state of serious management denial," he said. "We have done a really bad job communicating the seriousness of this issue. Someone has said that the money that was saved in the 1960s and 70s (from using two-digit date spaces, rather than four) is worth the pain we're going to suffer. That's rubbish. It was a shortcut policy that we didn't think through and it hasn't got any better with time."
"Most managers do not want to believe there is a problem," he added.
"They came up in the 1960s and 70s and remember the way the business used to be run and managed. Large organisations are about to find out how much they depend on their computer-based systems to run their day-to-day operations."
His advice to delegates was brutal: it's too late to sort out the entire problem, so start prioritising and save what you can.
"It is impossible at this late stage for any large organisation to make all of its systems Year 2000-compliant," he insisted. "The most important tool now is triage (sorting-out). We need to listen to the pessimists."
The knock-on effects of Year 2000-related systems failure will be far-reaching, according to de Jager. "Rightly or wrongly, the business world now considers the computer industry to be comprised of idiots. The bottom line is that we are computer professionals and we built major systems that are failing and must be fixed.
"In the future, once this is behind us, what will we have learnt? What will we do differently? How will we become a true profession?"
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