Say it isn't so, someone making money off y2k : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Independently Unproductive -- E-Commerce And Y2K Concerns Call For Vendors, Technology Managers, And Product Watchdogs To Work Together With Users Janis L. Gogan

The recent Fourth of July holiday-and some tough Boston-area traffic-had me ruminating about the meaning of independence, particularly as the concept applies to people and organizations dealing with the year 2000 computer date-field problem.

- Vendors declare independence from their own products by announcing that software versions must be replaced by year 2000-compliant versions-at the customer's expense. That expense can be considerable, too, if the user must upgrade sequentially through multiple releases in order to properly install the Y2K-compliant version. Many IS managers tell me they believe some vendors are pronouncing software to be noncompliant just so they can collect an upgrade fee-even if the older product is actually Y2K-compliant.

- Some IS managers declare independence from unscrupulous vendors by moving to a different vendor. But more often, they acknowledge their mutual interdependence-and purchase the upgrade.

- Some product watchdog organizations have declared their independence when it comes to the year 2000 problem. A hospital purchasing manager recently told me he figured that products with the Underwriters Laboratories label would be Y2K-safe. But I told him to check out the section of the UL Web site labeled "Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure Statement," where it says UL is "not testing or verifying products for year 2000 compliance."

So much for product safety-and for UL's own description of itself on its Web site ( "Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization. Each year, more than 14 billion UL Marks are applied to products worldwide. Since our founding in 1894, we have held the undisputed reputation as the leader in U.S. product safety and certification."

- IS organizations and their users also frequently declare themselves independent from one another. For example: Impatient to launch an online store, a business unit decided it didn't have time to confer with the IS organization before signing a contract for development of an interactive Web site. For reasons based on their previous experiences, these users did not view the IS department as a strong ally.

At first, the unit was thrilled with its cool new site-but last December it found that the Web transaction-processing software couldn't keep pace with the surge in customer orders. The unit's managers returned to the IS organization for help in developing or acquiring better software. But in the meantime, the IS organization had declared a moratorium on all new projects, since its year 2000 compliance project had fallen behind schedule. Further, the Y2K project manager sent out a memo informing users that they will be responsible for testing all non-standard hardware and software for Y2K problems, and for fixing all user-developed applications.

"What are you talking about?" said a manager from the business unit. "I thought you were here to help us!" Now that he no longer wants his unit's independence, the IS department has declared its own.

IS organizations, users, and various third parties repeatedly declare their independence from one another, only to repeatedly confront their mutual interdependence. Today's most pressing business priorities-such as strategic electronic-commerce initiatives and necessary year 2000-compliance concerns-accentuate this interdependence, even as each party continues to try to break free from the others.

Next time you consider declaring your independence, ask yourself: Does this weaken our role as an ally? Although IS organizations and vendors cannot be all things to all people, they can declare their interdependence with users.

United, we stand. Divided, we may fall. Just remember: Declarations of independence sometimes lead to war.

Janis L. Gogan, a professor at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., consults and conducts research on emerging IT issues and management practices. She can be reached at

-- y2k dave (, July 14, 1999





-- Diane J. Squire (, July 14, 1999.

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