Silicon Valleys Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, PG&E, Microsoft Corp. Etc., Are Preparing For New Years Eve : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Silicon Valleys Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, PG&E, Microsoft Corp. Etc., Are Preparing For New Years Eve

Some of the biggies in Silicon Valley are preparing. Note: PG&E is preparing for potential blackouts on New Year's Eve. They are preparing but are the rest of us? -- Diane

San Jose Business Journal

January 25, 1999

Tech workers asked to skip plans for New Year's Eve

Erik Espe, Business Journal Staff Writer

Eighty percent of U.S. travel agents already are booking special travel packages for New Year's 2000, according to the American Society of Travel Agents.

But some technology firms--concerned about the likely flood of phone calls about problems resulting from the Year 2000 bug--are telling their employees not to leave town.

"We've sent out a message to all our employees that in certain businesses, in certain functions, in certain operations, we will have staffing," said Brad Whitworth, communications director of the Y2K program at Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard Co. "It's not only on New Year's Eve; we expect to ramp up in the month before and even after the new year comes around.

"We are adjusting our schedules for people in customer support, probably some of our product labs, internal functions like telecommunications, internal [Internet protocol] departments and facilities," he said. "Even others will be asked to be at work or be on call."

The Y2K bug threatens hardware and software that can't compute the year 2000. Everything from public utilities to government defense systems is threatened. Doomsayers are predicting that society will shut down altogether; others believe the bug will create only short-term nuisances.

However severe the problem turns out to be, some tech companies recognize that they're going to need employees to answer phones and monitor equipment during what could be the biggest worldwide celebration in history.

"[We're] asking everyone to be flexible in their vacation plans," said David Berman, a public relations official at IBM.

Based in Armonk, N.Y., IBM has three facilities in San Jose: the Almaden Research Center, the Storage Systems Division and Santa Teresa Laboratory.

Some firms have actually solidified commitments from workers to ring in the new year at their desks. If problems related to Y2K arise at midnight Dec. 31,1999, a competent support staff is needed to man the office phones or deal with the operations of the company.

"I know where I will be New Year's Eve," said Scott Blakey, a public relations official with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in San Francisco. "I've got nuclear duty."

Mr. Blakey will be answering phones at PG&E's Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant when the new year arrives. "I'll be somewhere down there with a tiny, tiny drink in my hand," he joked.

The plant is expected to be Y2K-compliant by July 1, Mr. Blakey said. But someone has to be there when the new year arrives to answer calls from both authorities and the media if problems occur.

In addition, PG&E's other operations could be affected. Although mission-critical systems should be Y2K-ready by the end of the third quarter, PG&E is preparing for potential blackouts on New Year's Eve.

What hasn't been ironed out is exactly how many PG&E employees will need to be at the nuclear powerplant or at other facilities throughout the Bay Area, Mr. Blakey said. PG&E employs thousands in the Bay Area.

Companies that are on top of Y2K compliance also tend to be on top of planning for an employee presence at their offices on Dec. 31.

"It's a very common thing we're hearing," said Mike Harden, president of Century Technology Services Inc., a Virginia-based Y2K consulting firm. "As we get closer to the year 2000, you will hear more people saying, `Hey, I have to work that weekend.' "

Microsoft Corp. is beginning to solidify its employee plans for Dec. 31, 1999. The company, which offers 24-hour customer support, is assessing how much call volume it should expect as a result of the Y2K crisis.

Not all of Microsoft's myriad of software products are Y2K-compliant. In addition, its popular Windows operating system (which is Y2K compliant) may be installed with systems that are not ready, according to Microsoft Y2K project manager Don Jones. If some of its products become inoperable, he said, users may need Microsoft's advice.

"We're working right now on exact staffing numbers," said Mr. Jones, who expects to be in his Seattle-area office at midnight Dec. 31. He did say many employees will be on standby. Microsoft's valley operations include MSN Hotmail, WebTV and a number of sales offices. The company has 800 employees in the valley, though by the time the Y2K crisis hits that number could increase because Microsoft plans to open a 32-acre campus in Mountain View by this summer.

The initial effects of the Y2K bug likely will be seen in Australia and New Zealand, where the new year will dawn first. Based on the number of calls Microsoft receives from those regions, the company will ascertain how many employees it needs to handle U.S. calls.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, employees will be able to celebrate New Year's Eve at Microsoft offices nationwide--while they're working.

"They'll be celebrating and manning the phones for our customers," Mr. Jones said.

The mantra being repeated to employees from many companies is "flexibility."

"Nobody [at IBM] has been told not to plan a New Year's Eve--just to be flexible," said Mr. Berman.

But to consultant Mr. Harden, "flexibility" is just another way of saying "prepare to work on New Year's Eve."

"Don't plan on being anywhere, because you're going to be [at the office]," he said.

Some companies, however, don't anticipate a need for additional support on New Year's Eve.

Sun Microsystems Inc. officials believe they have made enough preparations for the problem already. The Mountain View company intends to staff its 24-hour customer service lines with the usual number of people.

"We have had an extensive Y2K effort," said Natalie Shuttleworth, senior marketing manager of Sun's Year 2000 program. "We don't anticipate any extraordinary demand on New Year's. We've been proactive about preparing our customers and making information available to them."

Scotts Valley-based Seagate Technology Inc. and Cupertino-based Apple Computer Inc. have always produced Y2K-compliant products, so they don't anticipate a need for increased staffing.

Santa Clara-based Intel Corp., meanwhile, intends to have the "appropriate resources" available that evening to answer calls or solve problems within the company during the crisis, according to Bill Calder, a communications official in the company's Y2K division.

-- Diane J. Squire (, January 27, 1999


What calls? If the phones are down, there won't be any calls. Just a deathly silence.

-- Bill (, January 27, 1999.

uh, except for the small arms fire...

-- a (a@a.a), January 27, 1999.

I can comment on HP and how it's doing. They have been working on their systems for 2 years. They are done and tested. I've seen it, I know the systems, I know the programmers, I'm ex-HP. I do not see any panic or undue concern anywhere. They are working with their vendors to make sure they are ready. In short they are doing it the "right way".

just my .02 worth....

-- Freelancer (, January 27, 1999.

Article quote,"Windows operating system (which is Y2K compliant) may be installed with systems that are not ready, according to Microsoft Y2K project manager Don Jones. If some of its products become inoperable, he said, users may need Microsoft's advice." END

First off, Microsoft Windows 95, etc. are not Y2K compliant. Microsoft is passing them off as Y2K compliant with MINOR ISSUES. Thats not Y2K compliant.

Source in the UK reports that Microsoft has admitted that Windows 95 may never be able to be Y2K compliant. Some big legal issues building up over there.

Wonder where the big shots are going to be while they have their techs manning the 'phones.

I say let the 'phone operators stay home and let them off the HOOK!!!!!

-- HOOK (OFF THE, January 27, 1999.


I have no doubts that the "biggies" will be ready. It's the smaller ones I'm concerned about. And PG&E. Especially them.


-- Diane J. Squire (, January 27, 1999.

PG&E isn' ready and won't be ready. "There no are absolutes in this game." John Greer, PG&E, PG&E Weekly, October 5, 1998. Got candles?

-- bardou (, January 28, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ