FleetBoston During the Year 2000 Rollover

An information systems vice president at FleetBoston Financial shares what the Y2K rollover was like inside one of the company's main information technology command centers and the company's plans for the future.

Interviewee: Paul Archambault, vice president, information systemsCompany: FleetBoston Financial Corp., BostonTenure: 16 yearsY2K location: The Y2K Communications Center for Technology (a.k.a. C3) in an Albany, N.Y., data center. Three conference rooms were commandeered for the center.

When did C3 open? "Thursday the 30th, around the clock. The corporate center in Boston [C4] opened Monday the 27th and started operating 24 hours on Thursday."

Was a security badge/card needed to get into the building? "Yes. This is ordinarily a secure building, but we had three security guards at the door [during Y2K preparations]."

Number of IT employees on duty at midnight: 25 to 30 in Albany.

Number of employees on duty at midnight: 4,000 stationed in other command centers or on call worldwide.

How did that shift compare with other experiences in your IT career? "It was our largest effort ever, and to come through as clean as we did, without a hitch, it was great. The excitement building up to the ball dropping in Times Square was something I haven't experienced before. I was confident, but the waiting to see it hit and see that it would work - the anticipation was incredible."

What was the worst scenario you had imagined? "Things like power and phone outages - what that would doto our overall ability to communicate with the organization, although we had backups in place."

What happened at the stroke of midnight? "A lot of high-fiving and a number of hugs. The ball dropped, and the consoles were still running, and it was business as usual. Getting through the first couple of seconds was exciting."

When did you breathe your first sigh of relief? "I first started to feel that we were in the kind of shape I had expected about 30 minutes after midnight.

But the first time I felttotally comfortable that we were out of the woods was after the first night's processing [Jan. 3]."

What did you learn about your staff that night? "If I look at the entire project, I'd say we have done large initiatives before, but to watch people from all the lines of business come together the way we did for this, and the length of time we did, was truly outstanding."

Will the staff get any perks for the project? "We'll have a celebratory dinner at a hotel for our key Y2K staff members after we get through the leap [day], and we have a Y2K employee availability policy that will allow additional vacation days to the folks who worked through the rollover."

What have you learned asa manager from all this? "Leadership was definitely a key, and some great people gave extremely strong leadership to this project."

What will all of you do now? "Feb. 29, leap [day], is certainly the next watch point. The next big focus toward the end of the first quarter will be on the integration and conversion work of the merger [between Fleet Financial Group Inc. and BankBoston]. Also, e-commerce - expanding our online cash management capabilities for corporate customers and enhancing online products for consumers." People who were involved with Y2K were doing Y2K work in addition to their everyday duties. They will shift their focus back on those other projects.

Quote: "It was really something I know I haven't felt before, going through that whole process and watching it come to fruition. As I talked to people throughout the organization, I hear the same response, ‘I've never been so excited to be bored for a New Year's celebration.' That sums it up."

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