CeePrompt! Computer Connection 

Originally published Monday, September 7, 1998 

Only 480 shopping days till Y2K

Tick-tock, tick-tock. The countdown to the millennium is now being measured in days as computer users everywhere continue to analyze their "Year 2000" readiness. The much-ballyhooed "Y2K" bug has struck fear throughout all segments of a society that has grown totally dependent on microprocessor technology.

The Y2K time bomb was set many years ago when programming resources were slim and making the century assumption of "19" was adopted as a much-needed conservation effort. Now, however, there is no quick fix since the use of date calculations is rampant in almost every computer application and there is no standardization. Any aspect of your daily life that utilizes even the most subtle computerization could be subject to failure when 00 rolls around.

Cars, elevators, communications, street lights, ventilation systems, gas, electricity and public transportation, not to mention the more obvious government and banking systems are all vulnerable to chaos and failure if the Y2K bug isn't zapped before 1999 year end. While some analysts prophesy doom and gloom, there are those at the other end of the spectrum who say the predictions are inflammatory and overrated.

In fact, no one knows what will happen on Day 1 of the year 2000. There are simply too many variables to predict with any certainty how our computerized society will transition into the next century. Most businesses aren't taking any chances, however, and already have a Y2K plan in place.

Assessing your own "in-house" vulnerability is usually the first step in preparing for 2000. Identifying every component in your operation that relies on computer technology is a must and goes far beyond the obvious PCs, bookkeeping and accounting programs. Will the alarm system let you into the office? Will there be power to the building? Will the cars and trucks run? Will the phone system be affected? Will the copy machine function? Will the cash register still ring?

Following up with manufacturers on these questions may seem silly now, but when just one link fails in your immediate operation, productivity drops. A more difficult challenge arises when it comes to assessing the Y2K readiness of companies that you do business with, often referred to as the "supply chain." Once again, your business is only as strong as its weakest link, and that applies to your suppliers as well.

You could pass the Y2K test for internal compliance with flying colors, but if your principal inventory supplier, for example, fails miserably, then havoc ensues regardless of your own stellar readiness. Is the shipping company that transports the goods Y2K ready? Will they still be able to process your orders? Who are their suppliers? Are they ready? As you identify and define your own supply chain, the problem compounds with every sub-link down the line.

Large manufacturers and companies such as Armstrong, Sears, Monsanto and Coors are tackling the supply-chain problem by identifying key suppliers and sending out questionnaires that are designed to assess the company's Y2K readiness. In some cases an in-depth audit and systems test is required of critical suppliers whose lack of readiness would seriously jeopardize productivity. Suppliers who fail in their Y2K readiness may find their relationship with the manufacturer "reconsidered" if compliance isn't achieved by early 1999.

The Internet, as always, is an excellent resource for information and assistance in dealing with Y2K concerns and issues. InfoWorld provides a Y2K link from its home page at www.infoworld.com/ Here you'll find many informative articles as well as links to companies that specialize in Y2K problem solving.

Microsoft continues to update its Y2K Resource Center at www.microsoft.com/technet/ topics/year2k/ Of particular interest is the Product Guide, which lists all Microsoft products and provides a detailed explanation of their readiness. Microsoft also provides information on "third party" vendors who specialize in Y2K compliance.

Additional resources can be found at www.y2k.com and www.year200.com

Sample questionnaires on customer and vendor readiness are located at the following Web sites:

* www.bog.frb.fed.us/Y2K/ frbQuest.htm

* www.sc-bank.com/y2kform. html

* http://britnet.ftech.net/ bin/y2k.pl?NEW

* http://nan.shh.fi/raw/iia/y2k htmls/question/genlettr.htm

Are we behaving like Chicken Little or will we truly be saddling up the horse and buggy just 480 days from now? We'll just have to wait and see as the adventure unfolds for all of us. I'm planning to err on the side of compliance, however, just to be safe. 

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for an archive of previous columns.