Why isn't Y2K the #1 IT priority today?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

As I learn more about this issue, it astonishes me that there is so little relative effort going on. Having worked for a large system integration firm for over seven years, I see that new system development has not given way to Y2K preparation even at this late date. If anything, new technologies and systems are hotter than ever, especially with the Internet, Java and so on. I have a few questions on this subject:

(1) Are other IT professionals making the same observations in their companies?

(2) Are others of you also astounded that priorities have not been dramatically shifted to reduce risk and preserve continuity through Y2K?

(3) What are some psychological explanations for this phenomenon, which may help in breaking through? For instance, the "if I don't look it isn't there" approach, or the "somebody else is taking care of it" approach. What are other viewpoints, rationalizations you see?

-- Jeff Mantei (manteij@hotmail.com), July 21, 1998


A lot of it comes down to procrastination. In 1999, you will see a lot more companies getting serious about this, and hopefully as the year goes by the gloom and doomers will have less and less to be gloomy about. The other thing I see is that companies don't want to depress their earnings and scare away stockholders by throwing money at this invisible problem, although I agree that existing resources could be diverted rather than hiring new ones. This will happen in 1999. Another thing I see happening is that utilities will complete their Year 2000 testing, like the President asked them to. They will be surprised by the number of non-compliant systems they have. They will complain that they can't afford to replace them and ask Congress to bail them out. Congress will have no choice, especially since the "Let's all pull together as a team" speech.

-- Amy Leone (aleone@amp.com), July 21, 1998.


Why do you believe that those companies which have procrastinated until 1999 will be able to do fix their systems in less than 12 months?

-- Nabi Davidson (nabi7@yahoo.com), July 21, 1998.

I didn't say I believed it, I said they believed it. It should be an interesting year, no doubt about it. I just don't think you are going to see a lot of action this year. Another problem is that programmers are considered support staff, and only so much money is allocated to that. This is a big budget surprise and requires priority shifting at the highest levels. Change is slow. Things will pick up next year.

-- Amy Leone (aleone@amp.com), July 21, 1998.

Also, there are custom software packages out there for banks, insurance cos., etc. I know that CSC (Computer Sciences Corp) offers a number of these, because I am a stockholder and I read their annual report. In other words, they don't have to remediate their home-grown software. They can go out and buy a one-size-fits-all package, just like you can go out and buy Quicken. I expect they'll try to remediate within a certain budget for the first half of 99. When that fails, they'll buy the ready-made stuff. The only sector that can't do that is the government.

-- Amy Leone (aleone@amp.com), July 21, 1998.


I am very familiar with the custom packages for banks, because I work for a federal banking regulator and regularly examine data centers and their systems. Implementing a new custom software package, regardless of whether it is Y2K-compliant, is not a quick and painless process. Many banks which use these "turnkey" software systems have little in-house expertise and depend heavily on the vendor for technical support. Should even a relatively moderate number of banks decide they need to switch software packages in 1999, the vendors will be overwhelmed. Additionally, many external data servicers are no longer accepting any new customers until after 2000. Banks which think they can find a nice easy fix for a Y2K problem in 1999 are most likely engaging in wishful thinking. By then, it's going to be too late for most who don't have systems which are or will be compliant by 1/1/00.

-- Nabi Davidson (nabi7@yahoo.com), July 21, 1998.

Well, once the banks realize this they will have to put themselves on the market, where they will be absorbed by banks that are prepared. The strong will eat the weak in the marketplace like they always do. My concerns are in the areas of government, utilities, and embedded systems. The federal government received a failing mid-term grade. If I received a failing grade, I would ask what my areas of weakness were and how I could improve. The administration responded by saying that they were graded to harshly. A juvenile response not likely to lead to success.

-- Amy Leone (aleone@amp.com), July 21, 1998.

I just had another thought (which of course I had to share) - is it possible that companies are playing chicken with their programmers? In other words, the programmers are saying "If you don't fix this you'll go out of business" and the management is thinking "If we go out of business then you won't have a job now will you?". Is management thinking that programmers are going to take the lead on this?

-- Amy Leone (aleone@amp.com), July 21, 1998.

Jeff asked:

"What are some psychological explanations for this phenomenon, which may help in breaking through? For instance, the "if I don't look it isn't there" approach, or the somebody else is taking care of it" approach."

Jeff, the explanations for denial and inaction are complex and vary from individual to individual, and from situation to situation. When we're dealing with family members and friends, we can still afford to soft pedal a bit, to keep gradually, gently pouring on the facts until they begin to see. But when we're dealing with decision-makers, those who are earning the big bucks to steer their organizations, total, ruthless confrontation with the facts absolutely must be the rule. The force-field of disinformation and denial surrounding the typical executive is so powerful that only the sharpest, most pointed projection of cold facts has a chance to penetrate it.

In his "Blind Man's Bluff" essay, Gary North cites this interesting study from Davidson and Rees-Mogg's THE SOVEREIGN INDIVIDUAL:

"A recent psychological study disguised as a public opinion poll showed that members of individual occupational groups were almost uniformly unwilling to accept any conclusion that implied a loss of income for them, no matter how airtight the logic supporting it. Given increased specialization, most of the interpretive information about most specialized occupational groups is designed to cater to the interests of the groups themselves. They have little interest in views that might be impolite, unprofitable, or politically incorrect (p. 339)."

When the Wall Street Journal publishes an op-ed piece telling executives the problem is no big deal, everybody else is quickly fixing it, and those who are talking about its dangers are hucksters trying to make a buck, you have your work cut out for you if you're trying to tell them otherwise.

They have little interest in what you have to say. They certainly don't want you to be impolite or politically incorrect in saying it. But maybe that's exactly what you need be. Maybe you need to tell them in explicit, no-holds-barred terms what's going to happen to their companies, and their jobs, and their cushy retirement plans if they continue to ignore the situation. Maybe you need to point out that real people whose faces they see everyday are going to be out in the street wondering how to feed their children because they and the fellows at the club can't see the forest for the trees.

They don't understand how computer systems work. Most of them depend on secretaries to print out their email so they can read it, for heaven's sake! But they understand that they need their data feeds to function. They understand that if they can't send out invoices they're in deep doodoo. They grasp that they need to be able to exchange valid information with customers and vendors. You need to paint a graphic picture for them of effects and then remind them it won't be your butt that's sued if they fail.

I don't know. More and more I find myself seeing the point of the unnamed armed forces deputy chief of staff whose remarks were quoted at http://www.Duh-2000.com/ in their last contest (The monthly contest for the stupidest thing said about the Year 2000 problem):

"all I can do is persist, persist and persist. I can educate them. I can advertise our successes. Then, if they don't get it, we'll just have to shoot them."


-- Faith Weaver (faith-weaver@usa.net), July 21, 1998.

Here's my personal experience with denial. When my brother and I were 5 and 7 years old, we starved. We ate guts from a manure pile which our mother asked us to retrieve so she could prepare us a gourmet meal. Our father lived hundreds of miles away and ignored our mother's pleas for help. In his letters he never acknowledged our plight, but instead wrote us what a wonderful house he was building for us and that he was going to buy a luxury convertible. After 2 dozen lawyers and many years of court battles the three of us were still homeless. For years our father, lawyers and judges were all in denial that we were starving and homeless.

-- Armando Carreras (winners@magiclink.com), July 22, 1998.

It sounds like Timothy Fonseca, Anthony Holguin, Turkmouse or whatever his name is has returned. Eating from a manure pile sounds like his humor. Give us a break! What a sicko!

-- David Koening (dave22@concentric.net), July 22, 1998.

Dear David Koening, you are another example of denial. I have truly gathered guts from a manure pile and have eaten it. So help me God. Afterwards my little brother upchucked it per protocol.

-- Armando (winners@magiclink.com), July 22, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ