2000 glitch `still ignored’

Companies face disruption and complete collapse as industry continues to ignore the looming crisis over the year 2000 conundrum, say consultants. Even firms which are now preparing millennium projects may have left it too late, as resources in the IT sector are already stretched and some big consultants are closing their doors to new clients. […]

Companies face disruption and complete collapse as industry continues to ignore the looming crisis over the year 2000 conundrum, say consultants.

Even firms which are now preparing millennium projects may have left it too late, as resources in the IT sector are already stretched and some big consultants are closing their doors to new clients.

These were the gloomy conclusions of the latest survey by PA Consulting for the government-sponsored Taskforce 2000.

It accuses heads of industry of failing to wake up to the danger, even though they have less than 20 months left to achieve compliance by the recommended deadline. Less than one third of senior managers are fully aware of the implications of the year 2000 computer crisis, and only 9% of organisations have completed an audit to assess the extent of the difficulties, compared with 8% disclosed by similar research eight months ago.

`This means that around 90% still do not know how big a problem they face, and that is scary,’ said Robin Guenier, director of Taskforce 2000.

He says that, with the testing portion of any year 2000 project taking up to 60% of the time, this leaves just eight months for firms to complete the correction phase.

He believes many companies have left it too late to achieve complete solutions, and that they will face `radical prioritising’ to decide which systems to modify and which to defer.

`It is vital that senior people understand the importance of this matter,’ he said. `Only they can set priorities, allocate resources and ensure the job gets done. If they don’t, we face the real possibility of economic, social and political disruption in 2000 and beyond.’

Problems arise because of the way computers recognise dates. Most systems use a two digit date field, which assumes a 19 prefix. They will therefore, be unable to distinguish between 2000 and 1900 from midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999.

The results could be complete systems failure, the rejection of data with dates past the cut off point, or partial system failure. Businesses are already encountering and using dates in the next century: in forward planning, in expiry dates or maintenance schedules.

In an attempt to raise awareness, Ian Taylor, the science and technology minister, is writing to 100,000 chief executives.