Betting on compliance

Warning, network managers: you have less than a year to test, adjust and retest your network hardware and applications for Y2K compliance.

To hide your head in the sands of time and hope the whole thing goes away would be monumentally foolish, according to industry analysts and your peers. For those of you who haven’t started testing yet, there is good news and bad news.

The bad news: you will most likely find bugs in the system. “The code is broken…90 per cent of the programs need to be fixed,” said Peter de Jager, the Canadian computer consultant from Brampton, Ont., considered to be one of the pre-eminent authorities on the year 2000 problem.

The good news: you still have time to solve the problem and, while the work may be labour intensive and costly, it may not be as difficult as you think and it can lead to enterprise-wide benefits.

“By and large, this has turned out to be less painful than I feared,” said Andy Woyzbun, vice-president, systems and CIO, AT&T Canada Long Distance Services, referring to the Y2K problem faced by the business and residential long-distance carrier. Although he said the problem was “less painful” than he thought it would be, he is not dismissing the potential bite of the so-called millennium bug.

He pointed out the number of IT people available in any organization tends to be geared to the number of projects that are underway and problems that may occur. “But if you double or triple incidents come Jan. 1, 2000, will companies have enough people to diagnose and fix problems?” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t think it’s going to take many additional problems to tax the diagnostic capabilities of those who normally fix these things, and that’s the thing that scares me.”

AT&T Canada formally acknowledged the Y2K problem in 1996 and it didn’t take the company’s IT staff long to realize it was dealing with more than a computer network issue. “Anything that had a clock or computer circuit or computer program in it, which involves virtually our entire [long-distance] network,” was subject to Y2K problems, he said.

As with almost every other major corporation, AT&T Canada did not leave it up to network managers alone to tackle the Y2K problem. The company set up two senior management committees that meet on a regular basis to deal with the broader ramifications of the issue. Woyzbun’s staff is tackling the hands-on problems related to computer systems, computer networks, computer applications and digital equipment used to deliver long-distance services to customers.