Engineering firms which have woken up to the year 2000 computer problem will find it almost impossible to find anyone to carry out the necessary remedial work, said Robin Guenier, head of the Government-sponsored Task Force 2000, this week.
Guenier said the number of capable consultants could meet only 10% of demand.
He said that of the 40 to 50 consultancies in the UK qualified to carry out the work required – most are already fully booked until the compliance date of December 1998. With an average of 20 clients each, this means only 800 to 1,000 jobs will have been completed by the end of next year – and there are an estimated 9,000 British businesses likely to be affected.
The shortage of good consultants also brings the danger of a `cowboy’ element, said Guenier. Small businesses, with relatively little to fear from the 2000 date change are being panicked into using `pseudo-consultants’ who charge heavily.
The litigious nature of the information technology business is not helping matters, said Guenier, with some reputable consultants refusing to take on the work, fearing lawsuits if they did not find every bug in a system.
The need for expert consultancy is partly due to embedded chip technology. Whereas with legacy software programs can be run through the system to check for compliance, embedded software needs to be checked `chip by chip’.
Such technology is used throughout industry, from video recorders and air conditioning systems to process controllers, power stations and weaponry control. Of two chips from the same batch, one might be compliant and the other not.
For older devices, chips may be integral to the equipment, meaning that the whole device might need to be replaced.