Y2K should be viewed as just another business project

Companies are three to five times more likely to have mission-critical failures if Y2K is treated as a technical problem rather than a business problem, according to one industry consultant.

Denis Douville, director of the year 2000 practice at Montreal-based consulting firm LGS Group Inc., was one of several panelists at the Technology in Government Week convention in Ottawa to touch on how Canadian companies may fare in the post-Y2K era.

Establishing a business process model which “anticipates the possibility that something might go wrong” should include risk management and setting minimal acceptance thresholds, statistical information on customer needs and delivery systems, contingency planning and legal accountability. In many ways, Douville said, the same rules apply in any large business or IT undertaking.

“It’s just that Y2K has taught us how to better anticipate this kind of thing,” he explained.

And, despite the lateness of the year, a fair number of companies are just starting their Y2K planning, or are very far behind where they feel they should be.

“Many organizations have missed major milestones, even though they are complete or on schedule publicly,” Douville said.

Rosemary Murray-Lachapelle, director of the office of government records for the National Archives of Canada, is challenged with the role of “preserving the corporate memory of the nation.” The office is faced with a growing volume of records, she said, which will only increase in complexity after the year 2000, despite all the technological updates that have been made in preparation for that date. She agreed that Y2K should be treated as a business problem.

“What it comes to now, even if the technological problems have been changed, is we…have to come forward with things like policies and guidelines,” she said. “And it’s the policy issues that have to be decided right now.”

Priorities for the next three years in her office include increasing the ease of access to the records, setting polices for ensuring data integrity and continuing innovations in record storage and retrieval methods, she said.

Greta Bossenmaier, CIO of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Government of Canada, said the increase in awareness of information management is seen as a growth industry for the government.

“This underlines a valid…recognition that we are not only on the crest of the new millennium, but also on the verge of entering a knowledge-based society,” she said.

There is a growing need to embed information management into the work processes of departments within companies and government offices, she said, and to view knowledge as a key corporate resource.

“Much of the activity of the department is centred on developing a collection of knowledge which is not transaction-oriented. Creating knowledge from that information at hand is a challenge, and effective information management is a critical success factor,” she said.

Ron Carriere, chairman of Hull, Que.-based CorEdge Software Inc., said the new century brings with it an increased danger of “too much information” and that data has little value out of context.

“There’s a lot of information, and we must personalize it. It must be able to self-describe, to be able to come back to you and say ‘This is what I am,'” he said.

“If you can’t plan managing your knowledge, you are going to have horrendous problems, starting now.”