Life after Y2K

Many organizations are investing in new systems to handle the Y2K problem, but often the new implementations will provide them with no greater functionality or flexibility than their old setup.

Why is so much money being spent by so many to acquire so little? One reason is that Y2K is still widely viewed as a risk to be avoided at all cost, and fixed as soon as possible. For many, the primary and perhaps sole objective of their Y2K project is simply to preserve the status quo — correct their systems so the organization can ensure business as usual. In most organizations, the problem is acute in their financial and operations systems which control the movement and shipping of inventory, billing of customers and collection of cash. However, if the situation wasn’t so dire, most organizations wouldn’t dream of spending as much time, effort and money without getting some additional benefits in return.

Clearly, the best approach to Y2K is to view it as a catalyst or opportunity for change to significantly enhance the organization’s capabilities. In this situation, the organization focuses on what it wants its systems to be in the future, rather than focusing on creating solutions to preserve what exists today. While not all aspects of these systems may be ready for implementation now, the new systems should be able to accommodate them when the time is right. The solution can be purchased today, and implemented in stages to ensure that the deadline is met. The real value will come after Jan. 1, 2000 and the new features and benefits are realized. Here are some rules of thumb to consider:

– Build/buy a system that offers maximum flexibility. Avoid closed architectures even if such systems will accommodate your present needs. They will inevitably be less flexible when it comes time to expand or enhance your operations.

– Anticipate your future business directions. Consider the situation of a growing real estate company. Today, its operations are not extensive enough for it to be able to afford in-house property management capabilities. However, the company has an aggressive plan to acquire a number of new properties over the next few years. Therefore, the packages for accounting, payroll and other applications have been selected based on their compatibility with a property management package that the company expects it will need in another year or two.

– Challenge the way you do business. Because your old system lacked an Internet interface, you may have never considered e-commerce as an option. Similarly, you’ll want the flexibility to implement other e-business solutions which are becoming increasingly commonplace.

– Look to acquire a product that has a broader and deeper functionality than your existing system. When growth, globalization, acquisitions or other events occur, the software can be called upon to deliver the needed functionality.

Dagenais is a national partner, technology solutions with Deloitte & Touche Management Solutions in Toronto.