Y2K confidence is on the rise

With a shade over six months to go, information technology professionals surveyed by Computerworld US are increasingly confident that the year 2000 problem will amount to no more than scattered technological hiccups.

The survey of 317 IT pros, conducted earlier this month, found that respondents are very sure that their own computer systems will be ready to handle the date change.

But, as in previous surveys in March and October, the devil that IT pros already know appears to be better than the one they don't. Respondents show less confidence that their suppliers' and customers' systems will be ready, although their faith in the readiness of their supply chains has increased since last fall.

No Control

Stephanie Moore, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, acknowledged that gap. Companies with "decent legal counsel" are telling their trading partners that they're doing the best they can but can't deal with forces beyond their control, such as their own suppliers, she said.

"Everyone has these third-party, external vulnerabilities that they have no control over," Moore said.

Robert Weitzner, vice president of IT at CCP Industries Inc., a maker and distributor of personal care and safety products in Cleveland, said he's "cautiously optimistic" that there will be no problems in his company's supply chain. However, nobody is guaranteeing that they will be fully prepared, he added.

The survey's findings included the following:

-- Companies made great strides in the second quarter toward full compliance. About 24 percent of the firms surveyed said their information systems are ready to handle the date change, up from about 14.5 percent in March. But 28 firms (9 percent) reported that less than 70 percent of their systems are compliant.

-- Overall, 79 percent expect that their systems will be fully compliant January 1.

-- More IT professionals -- 89 percent of those surveyed -- believe Y2K won't cause significant economic problems. That's up from about 85 percent in March. But those at larger firms (at least 500 employees) are slightly more optimistic than IT pros at smaller firms (100 to 499 employees).

-- 82 percent have developed, or plan to develop, contingency plans in the event of possible Y2K failures.

Patrick Williams isn't taking chances. The CIO at Philadelphia Federal Credit Union has contingency plans ready, even though he said he has little Y2K work left to do. He said his only concern is the transfer of data among organizations.

For instance, the credit union has established a contingency plan in case members' employers fail to electronically deposit their paychecks into their accounts.

Contingency plans often involve alternative ways to obtain key products or services from suppliers in case those companies aren't ready. Some companies, Moore noted, are even visiting their suppliers to check on their compliance or looking at alternate vendors.

But the biggest concern with Y2K, Weitzner said, is panic. "It's a great opportunity for a lot of [media-generated] hype," he noted. "I believe we'll have a glitch here and there. [But] planes are not gonna fall out of the sky."

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