THERE have been some very angry people in the IT industry during the past 10
Ever since it became clear that the lights were still on and planes
were still flying after midnight on New Year's Eve, IT professionals
have been copping a great deal of flak.
Far from receiving praise for their planning and hard work, Y2K
managers suddenly found themselves called upon to justify spending as
much money as they did in the process of bug-proofing company systems
Many commentators rushed to the conclusion that the Y2K bug had been
nothing more than an elaborate con-job, engineered by the IT industry
to boost sales. They argued that IT experts should have been able to
foresee the lack of problems years ago and reduce their remediation
Such comments show an alarming lack of understanding of technology and
the integral role it plays in today's world.
It is an undeniable fact that the Y2K bug existed. Any systems that
recorded years using two digits rather than four was at risk.
What was not clear was the extent to which the bug would lead to
problems. To understand this, organisations had no choice but to check
and test their systems. To ignore the risk would have been
The fact there have been relatively few problems so far this year is
directly due to this work.
Many companies have confirmed that, had they not undertaken
comprehensive Y2K programs, their operations would have been seriously
To point to less developed nations, which also have reported few Y2K
problems, as evidence that the bug was a phantom is another flawed
Such countries have nothing like the dependence on technology that is
common in the Western world. Also, developing nations are not so
reliant on older, legacy computer systems.
Such systems still underpin much of the activity in sectors such as
banking and finance, and these consumed a considerable proportion of
Y2K budgets in many large companies.
The other serious problem with the con-job argument is that Y2K is far
from being over.
The issue was never going to be a one-minute-past-midnight affair, and
will be part of the IT and business landscape well into 2000.
A range of experts, including Bill Gates and US programmer Bob Bemer,
have predicted numerous problems will continue to occur for months.
Nothing that has happened during the past 10 days indicates they are
The critics of the size of Y2K budgets also fail to recognise the
other benefits that have come from the entire exercise: better IT
infrastructures, comprehensive disaster recovery plans and better
lines of communication between the computer room and the boardroom.
The IT industry has nothing to explain. Y2K presented a major
challenge that was accepted and overcome.
The new challenge is to
continue the vigilance.