Dispatches: We're doomed - I quit!

In March I am handing over all final information technology responsibility to our IS manager thereby freeing myself from the millennium demons. Time to get going while the going is goodHaving recently made the transition from CIO to COO, I have nine months to sheet home any blame for the myriad irritating year 2000 problems which will undoubtedly occur to our IS manager. This also gives him the same time to consider alternative arrangements, just in case.

As a small to medium size company IDG Australia fits squarely into the most at risk category of organisation in Australia. Just large enough to rely on systems for our survival, but not large enough to smother the spot fires with the big money blanket.

Nonetheless, we're not too concerned. We have one major problem, but I'll get to that later. Firstly the reasons for my relaxed countenance. Our three core systems, production, circulation and accounts are all year 2000 compliant. That means we can produce our magazines, deliver them (assuming the supply chain holds up) and collect the money -- so we are in business.

We have only one in-house-built system and that is currently being replaced, and most of the spreadsheet macros we use are provided by the parent company in the US -- so that's their problem.

We have no lifts in the building, our security system is sweet and our air conditioners never work anyway so there's the three most commonly regarded structural problems catered for. For the most part our system software is compliant, or versions released in the coming quarter will make them so.

And that brings us to the one dark spot on the compliance horizon. Let's spell it out in three easy syllables -- MI-CRO-SOFT. You gotta love ‘em.

No one seems to be able to answer the question about whether Microsoft's solutions will all work properly after December 31 this year -- least of all Microsoft. Given our heavy reliance on Office, Windows NT and increasingly SQL Server this is a bit of a drag. I've already alerted the chief executive to the fact that we can't guarantee how or if at all, any of this stuff will work, but I've also told him not to get too worked up about it.

There's nothing we or the other 85 per cent of the world who rely on Redmond can do about it, so there's really no point worrying. In the meantime I plan to continue responding to all those letters I get each week from companies asking us to confirm 100 per cent system continuity with a resounding "beats me". After all, most of these organisations are spamming hundreds or even thousands of suppliers with these letters and it will be 2003 before they get around to reading them.

Its all the fault of the lawyers of course, it always is. What was otherwise a large if exceptional maintenance problem has become the focal point for millennium doomsayers all because some slick shark with a law degree figured there was a buck to be made. The legal fraternity have been feeding like hungry dogs on a rotting carcass ever since.

So here is my one and only prediction for this year and for the next one after that. Some companies will go to the wall because of the year 2000 problem, but more often than not it will be legal bills, not IS budgets which send them there.

Shakespeare was right -- the first thing we'll do is kill all the lawyers.

Andrew Birmingham is the Chief Operating Officer of IDG Communications.

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