Y2K Final Report by President's Council

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The President's Council has issued their final report. It's available at http://www.y2k.gov/docs/LASTREP3.htm

Here's an extract of the learnings and conclusion reported. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on these "principles" as well as what other "principles" or learnings you think they missed:

"The Y2K experience demonstrates the importance of a number of basic principles.

Principle 1 -- Top management needs to be involved in information technology decisions on an ongoing basis.

Information technology is increasingly at the heart of how organizations conduct their business and Y2K highlighted the value of having top management providing leadership in this area. In many companies, it was only when the Board of Directors or the CEO took ownership of the Y2K problem that sustained progress became evident. This was also true in some Federal agencies. Only senior management could make Y2K a top priority, even if that prioritization caused delays in other IT projects.

Principle 2 -- Organizations need to do a better job keeping track of and managing the technology they use and the functions that technology performs.

Y2K provided most large organizations a reason to conduct -- for the first time ever -- a comprehensive inventory of their information technology infrastructure and processes. Not surprisingly, organizations found that some systems could be discarded without any loss in productivity while others could easily be replaced with more efficient models. Inconsistent systems and processes were found to be just what they are -- impediments to efficient operations. In many cases, Y2K also generated a better understanding of the increasingly important role IT systems play in an organization's operations, including its critical dependency on systems outside the organization's boundaries.

Principle 3 - Contingency plans should be continually updated and tested.

It makes sense to have a contingency plan. It makes even more sense to have a contingency plan that is continually updated and tested. In exercising contingency plans in advance of the date change, companies found that "little things" in their plans could have resulted in more serious problems. Telephone numbers were out of date, locations were unknown or had changed, or personnel did not know how to operate manual back-up systems. Employees need to understand their role in a contingency plan and be trained to perform their duties in the context of the plan. The French, who were without power in December 1999, and the State of New Mexico, which dealt with a significant blackout on March 18, 2000, both attributed the success of their emergency responses to the contingency planning work they did in preparing for Y2K.

Principle 4 - Industry National Centers are an important resource for reconstitution of critical services.

In preparing for the possibility of Y2K failures, the Council considered what the Federal Government's appropriate role should be in restoring critical services. It concluded that entities closest to providing a service are the most knowledgeable and capable of restoring it (e.g., power plant operators know best how to restart a power plant). The National Information Centers set up by industries across the critical infrastructure to monitor possible Y2K failures during the rollover provided an important set of "help desks" in case problems occurred. The ability of companies to provide assistance to one another in an organized way will become increasingly important as industries become more interdependent and interconnected.

Principle 5 -- Full disclosure is critical to sustaining public confidence in the face of possible emergencies.

One side effect of the Internet explosion is the ease with which rumors, misinformation, and false assumptions spread across the country. The natural inclination of some to doubt the ability of the public to understand and respond appropriately to the facts and therefore to withhold information often creates a vacuum that is filled by statements from those who are less informed. The public's measured response to the wealth of Y2K information - both positive and negative - offered by the Council and its partners is a reminder of the importance of providing more, rather than less, information to the public when dealing with a critical issue.

Principle 6 -- Forming partnerships across traditional boundaries can be a tremendous asset in the drive to achieve a commonly held goal.

In addition to demonstrating how technology has contributed to the increasing interconnectedness of organizations, Y2K provided an excellent example of how organizations can benefit from working together to address major issues. Through its numerous working groups, the Council was able to bring the country's critical infrastructure industries together to increase the level of Y2K awareness and activity and, in several cases, to set benchmarks for completing Y2K work. In addition, the industry surveys done at the Council's request played a critical role in prodding laggard companies to match the progress of their peers as well as in increasing public confidence that the Y2K challenge would be met successfully.

The spirit of partnership extended to the political arena as well. Most people recognized early on that there was not a Democratic or Republican solution to the Y2K problem. From the passage of the bipartisan Year 2000 Information and Readiness and Disclosure Act to the working relationships that existed between the Council and the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem and the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittees on Science and Technology and Government Management, Information, and Technology, Y2K proved that people could reach across organizational and party lines to address an extraordinary challenge.

The experience of reaching across traditional boundaries, whether between the public and private sectors, the legislative and executive branches, or countries around the world can help us respond to other large-scale challenges in information technology, including efforts to protect key infrastructure systems from cyber-threats and malicious activity.


The Year 2000 problem was an extraordinary challenge for businesses and governments around the world that is not likely to be duplicated. The success that resulted from efforts to prepare systems for the date change is a tribute to the skill, dedication, and hard work of the countless professionals who made Y2K their cause.

The story of Y2K is one of diverse organizations -- industry associations, companies, and government agencies that often had opposing agendas and interests -- coming together to recognize the power of information sharing and collaboration to achieve a commonly held goal. In its two years of operation, the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion worked to serve as a catalyst and facilitator for this activity, which helped the United States make a smooth transition to the new millennium. "

-- Jan Nickerson (JaNickrson@aol.com), April 03, 2000


For all the self-congratulatory, pat-yourself-on-the-back utterances, there is still one big "principle" that is yet unanswered: How come such countries as Russia, Italy, and Venezuela, who did next to nothing to remediate for y2k suffer no greater damage than those countries that did?

There's only one answer, as far as I'm concerned: they came up with some simple, excellent DELAYING strategy. Now if this is the stripping off of the last 2 digits, back-dating, some form of temporary window-fitting (with others with different pivots), who knows? But, something was done to TEMPORARILY quell the potential worldwide disaster. It worked.

When will these pigeons come home to roost? Again, who knows? But, I still feel there is a terrible price to pay for this put-off-the-day-of-reckoning finaggling--somewhere down the line.

-- wellesley (wellesley@freeport.com), April 03, 2000.

Until 1/1/00 there were standards--reliance on a simple 2-digit date ending on all dating applications to carry the day.

Since 1/1/00 all standards have been tossed in the ash can. To "get by," companies, organizations, and countries everywhere resorted to a hodge-podge of temporary fixes. We had setting the clocks back, date stripping, all kinds of windows fixes with all kinds of different pivots; we had splicing of 2-digit year dates with 4-digit permanent fixes, and God knows what else.

I guess that's why I liken y2k to railroad derailments. With all of these temporary fixes thrown together--and embellished by patch after patch after patch from the software companies--it's much like splicing stretches of railroad track of slightly different gauges together. The train will switch to another stretch of track, and, with only a very slight deviation in gauge, will continue on, smoothly. This can go on through several switches, each taxing the train's ability to stay on track, more and more. Until. Well, at some point the stress will become too great, and the train will run off the track.

When? Your guess is as good as mine. But, I am convinced that--somewhere along the line--it WILL happen.

-- JackW (jpayne@webtv.net), April 03, 2000.

I second the motion that a great deal of ingenuity, which is usually credited for solving the problem and making y2k a non-event, was, instead, generally used, only, to postpone the problem. I feel the problem is still a big one, lurking beneath the surface. All the frantic patches that are still being issued from the likes of Microsoft and Cisco should be sufficient evidence of this.

-- LilyLP (LillyLP@aol.com), April 03, 2000.

Contrary to all the laudatory talk of worthy principles emanating from the y2k experience, I'll bet an insidious cancer is growing in the system, right now, from corrupt data.

-- Billiver (Billiver@aol.com), April 03, 2000.

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