The Year 2000 Software Problem
by Capers Jones
Preface by Paul A. Strassmann
An acute awareness of the potential severity of the year 2000 problem has now surfaced on the agenda of every executive responsible for information management. This includes not only CIOs and computer operations managers, but also boards of directors, audit committees, and computer steering committees. Such consciousness is only of a recent origin. Judging from articles in the press, professional papers, and technical meetings, the year 2000 has become a topic worthy of focused discussion only in the last two years. Such a recent awakening of threats to the operational and financial health of organizations may be puzzling, especially in retrospect. The delays in dealing with what are now likely widespread damages will surely be argued when litigation suits base their compensatory claims as incontrovertible proof of managerial negligence.
The coming of a new century has been predictable for at least a thousand years. Why then the delays, surprises, and the rapidly escalating panic that a year 2000 debacle may not only jeopardize the financial health of a firm, but also destroy careers and reputations?
I find that the principal reason for the current confusion and dismay has been the absence of a thoughtful and well documented analysis of the severity of the problem. The early warnings about the incipient year 2000 problems were dismissed with incredulity. They lacked sufficient and substantive documentation about the amount and quality of the work that had to be accomplished. Even headline-grabbing research service pronouncements were greeted with skepticism because they could not explain how they arrived at their estimated expenditures to fix the problem. Individual organizations had no way of coming up with a budget that would assure their management that any proposed spending was based on demonstrable and sound cost-estimating principles. Multiplying the inventory of lines of code under control of the CIO - if such an inventory was available at all - by one of the wide-ranging cost quotes per line of code yielded numbers that very few financial executives could accept for redirecting funds.
This book stands out as the best, most thorough, and monumental contribution in defining what the year 2000 problem is all about. In painstaking detail it describes what is the scope of the year 2000 problem and what are the most likely approaches that could lead to alleviating its damage. It documents the dimensions of the software defects, organizational problems in managing year 2000 projects, and resource limitations in much greater detail than anything that has been published so far by anyone. For that reason, it should receive immediate acceptance as a much sought-after reference for anyone who wishes to check the adequacy of their year 2000 protective measures.
This book is required reading for all executives who may have to account for their custodianship of the year 2000 solutions whenever the inevitable after-the-fact recriminations occur. In the same way as the fall of the Berlin Wall became the symbolic event marking the downfall of a mismanaged Soviet Empire, it is likely that the enormous costs, litigation, and adverse publicity of any year 2000 failures will be seen as the end of trust in the management of information technologies. What will follow are inevitable changes in organization budgeting, and accountability. There is still a preciously small amount of time to get a grip on dealing with the year 2000 challenges, but that must be done with the aid of rational and comprehensive analysis. I trust that this new book by Capers Jones will provide those insights and guidance.
Paul A. Strassmann