The Y2K Bug Is Upon Us
"[The public] is hearing more and more about the problem now from the mainstream press," Thomas says. "Several months ago, virtually no one outside of the computer industry—and a few wily lawyers—knew of the Y2K problem. With movies and novels scheduled to come out in mid-1999, the public will certainly be more aware as we approach January 1, 2000.
"Most people think the Y2K problem is strictly a computer problem," he adds. "However, because our lives are so intertwined with computers, the problem will be evident in practically everything they do."
Both Thomas and Ulrich agree that significant progress is being made in eliminating problems in mission-critical areas. Testing and contingency planning will dominate the latter half of this year. Thomas warns that testing and verification is essential and must be allotted ample time in the event tests indicate remediation work was not complete or was not accurately done.
Large corporations have already instigated preventive measures, according to Ulrich. Fortune 500 companies, with few exceptions, have devoted considerable energies and resources toward exterminating bugs. Ulrich believes areas such as contingency planning and crises management have not been adequately addressed.
Industries in the private sector, namely healthcare, are behind in preparation efforts. But Ulrich is most concerned with small companies, many of which have done little or nothing to stave off potential problems. Herein lies the true caveat.
"Small-, medium- and large-size companies are all at risk, because there's a potential effect on the economy," Ulrich says. "Most people who have followed [the Y2K initiative] agree there is going to be some kind of impact on the GNP, due to slowdowns in production, distribution, transportation and import/export transactions."
Importing/exporting procedures can involve as many as 15 different organizations, and any chink in that armor, like a breakdown at any point on an assembly line, could produce dire consequences. Imagine the inability to obtain a photograph for a passport, preventing travel.