Finance house gives Y2K lesson

GIO Building Society has a message for other corporations about to tread warily down the year 2000 compliance path - replace rather than patch.

In late 1996, the company decided to embark on a project to overhaul its existing legacy systems in the face of increasing business pressure and, of course, the dreaded millennium bug. After holding an analysis meeting, the company's management team decided to completely replace these systems, rather than merely undergoing an expensive 'patching' exercise.

"We started to look at the issue seriously in the beginning of 1997 and the drivers for that were twofold. Firstly, we knew that the application we were using to support our banking operation was not going to roll through the year 2000 without changes," said Don Carroll, GIO Building Society's national operations manager.

"We also had a look at our business to see where the business was going and effectively, we considered that instead of addressing the Y2K problem independent of our business strategy, that we'd address them together. As a result, we recognised that RBS was going to take a load of work to bring it to a situation where we could begin to look at the issue of cards, integrating Internet applications with it and customer-centric information systems. To get all that together, we thought we'd be better off looking at the application holistically, rather than breaking it down to a Y2K project and then a bunch of other business projects."

Carroll said the organisation's decision to substitute - rather than repair - its systems was made easier by the fact its previous supplier, Joint Services, had gone out of business, leaving GIO with no external support or service.

"Joint Services went under a number of years ago. It was no longer being externally supported and we had a team of people in-house that we were using to support this application. We considered using those people to 'patch' the application to make it compliant. We looked at a number of tools that might have been used to bypass the code itself and face-shift the date in a layer between the operating system and the code and we rejected those for a bunch of reasons. Some of these were technical, some of these were the amount of effort involved, but the largest issue would have been the business side of things. For the amount of money we were going to have to spend, we wouldn't have been taking the business forward."

GIO Building Society spent about $1.5 million on the RBS rollout, Carroll said.

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