With 100 days left, users have few big Y2K worries

One hundred days before the year 2000, some eight out of 10 large corporations don't foresee any "significant business risk" when their internal systems roll over, according to the survey "100 Days to Go," released this week by Cap Gemini America and Rubin Systems.

Confidence was even higher in a new Computerworld survey.

Cap Gemini is a New York-based management consulting and information technology services group; Rubin Systems is an IT and software performance improvement/coaching service in Pound Ridge, New York. The survey questioned IT directors and managers from 156 companies in the financial services, manufacturing and insurance industries.

If there's any good news about the money companies have spent on the date-change problem, it's that IT is now visible on the business side, according to the survey's findings. But Y2K hasn't eaten up much of some companies' budgets, said Howard Rubin, CEO of Rubin Systems, during a press conference last week.

Financially wealthy companies are spending only 5 percent to 8 percent of their IT funding on Y2K, while poorer companies are spending up to 40 percent of their IT budgets readying systems for Y2K, according to the report.

Andy Bochman, an analyst at Boston-based Aberdeen Group, said the US is well prepared for the Y2K rollover, but a flag is being raised by Cobol programmers: Despite system testing, there may be a number of errors not yet found in the code that will cause problems when the date really changes, Bochman said.

Some minor failures

Some firms have already experienced Y2K-related failures. According to the study, 82 percent had minor failures -- up from 75 percent in August -- but that's because more companies are rolling out their code now, Cap Gemini said. Fifty-six percent of the failures were caused by systems that hadn't been upgraded or replaced, followed by 44 percent that were already Y2K-fixed.

Nearly all experienced some financial miscalculations (95 percent) and processing disruptions (92 percent). Fewer have had logistics/supply-chain problems (36 percent), customer service problems (33 percent) and actual business disruptions (2 percent).

Trigon Blue Cross/Blue Shield experienced some incidents related to its Y2K fixes. Based in Virginia, Trigon has 4,000 employees, who serve 1.9 million health plan members. Dan Clark, director of application services, said data was incorrectly updated but was quickly fixed before it impacted business.

"Some systems won't be fully compliant by the rollover," said Jim Woodward, Cap Gemini's senior vice president. But any glitches will hopefully be offset by crisis centers and contingency strategies, he added.

But Bochman said that if systems fail, "then [companies] probably did a half-assed job fixing the problem ... and we're all going to get killed."

Meanwhile, top corporate managers are now seeing the importance of IT. Rubin said business managers are becoming more involved with IT projects and IT in general, taking control of operations and budgets. One dollar out of every $US4 is now being set aside for IT projects, Rubin said.

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