Gartner Study Sounds Alarm on Global Y2K Glitches

A startling 30 percent of all companies worldwide haven't even begun to address the year 2000 programming problem, which potentially could have a severe impact on supply chains between organizations that are internetworked. The findings, announced in a teleconference yesterday by Gartner Group Inc., are based on surveys and interviews with 2,300 companies, institutions and government agencies across 17 countries.

A startling 30 percent of all companies worldwide haven't even begun to address the year 2000 programming problem, which potentially could have a severe impact on supply chains between organizations that are internetworked.

The findings, announced in a teleconference yesterday by Gartner Group Inc., are based on surveys and interviews with 2,300 companies, institutions and government agencies across 17 countries.

To measure and evaluate where companies stand with their year 2000 compliance efforts, Gartner has created a "compare scale" that establishes five levels of compliance. Level 1 represents organizations that have just entered into the awareness phase of the year 2000 problem, while Level 5 represents organizations that have made all of their mission-critical and non-information technology systems fully compliant.

The high percentage of companies that haven't addressed the millennium problem "is a tremendous concern" that could have a serious ripple effect on global supply chains, said Lou Marcoccio, an analyst at the Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm.

Marcoccio points to a large U.S. automobile manufacturer he spoke to last week, which relies on several component makers -- and none them have done any year 2000 work yet. Marcoccio said the component makers have time-sensitive scheduling and production systems which, if left untreated, will disrupt the development and delivery of parts to the automaker, which doesn't have any alternative suppliers.

"You don't get a mulligan on this -- there's no do-over" for year 2000 remediation, said Matt Hotle, Gartner's year 2000 research director.

Perhaps not so surprising, Gartner's research found that most educational institutions and government agencies "are quite a bit behind" other industries with their year 2000 compliance efforts, Hotle said.

While there is already a noticeable shortage of experienced programmers available to deal with the millennium bug, "the next big [talent] crunch" will be for organizations to find quality assurance professionals to help support remediation and testing. Quality assurance experts are in even shorter supply than programmers are, said Hotle.

Vertical industries that are leading the remediation effort include financial services companies -- including banks, brokerages and insurers -- and most types of manufacturers. At the bottom of the heap are health care providers -- 88 percent of all health care providers surveyed are at Level 1, Hotle said.

From a geographic standpoint, the nation leading the pack isn't the United States, but Australia, which maintains a narrow lead over the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Organizations in South America and Africa are the biggest laggards, Marcoccio said.

Among the biggest concerns for information systems managers, Hotle said, are the fragility of the power supplies used to support their computer rooms and data centers. Hotle said embedded hardware and software in these systems could fail and cripple organizations if they aren't fixed.

The full results of the company's research will be released at Gartner's annual Symposium conference, to be held in Orlando next month.

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