UK managers fail to respond to 2000 threat

UK managers fail to respond to 2000 threat

British IT directors and managers are less well prepared to cope with the advent of the year 2000 than their European counterparts, even though they claim to be more aware of the issues, according to a survey sponsored by pan-European systems integrator Softlab, writes John Stokdyk.

The survey, conducted by Neaman Bond and Spikes Cavell among 850 IT professionals across Europe, reported that 80% of the respondents were aware of the year 2000 issue. But in the UK only 18% had allocated a specific budget to identify and deal with potential problems – the lowest proportion in Europe.

In just under three years, computer users face potential disaster if they have not checked and adapted their systems to cope with the new millennium.

Many computer systems use just two digits to designate the year using a variant of the DD/MM/YY formula.

Unless software is written to accommodate the change from 31/12/99 to 01/01/00, anomalies could cause systems to crash. Softlab’s survey sought to establish preparedness levels for the year 2000 across Europe.

‘There was clear evidence in the survey that although organisations claim to have a strategy, evidence of risk and impact assessments was minimal,’ said Graham Brown of Neaman Bond.

Year 2000 problems are taken the most seriously in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where users have the most mature implementation strategies. Softlab, a subsidiary of German automotive company BMW, is a major supplier and integrator of R3 systems from SAP. Roughly one third of its business comes from financial and banking markets, according to UK marketing manager Karin Rutter.

Rutter joined Softlab in December after spending three years with Oracle.

One of the key components of her new brief is to focus attention on Softlab’s range of solutions for coping with the year 2000 and European monetary union. ‘Our survey showed that UK computer users may be more aware of the year 2000, but they are not so aware of the effects of monetary union,’ said Rutter.

These two re-engineering challenges will be the main issues facing IT professionals in the new year,’ she said, ‘but there will also be problems with skills shortages, providing opportunities for people like COBOL programmers.

Our survey results also suggest that there is a lack of project management expertise at the top level.’

The Softlab survey is part of a marketing exercise leading up to the introduction of a new version of its Maestro II application development environment later this month. Maestro II version 4 is an object repository-based system targeted at large, corporate IT departments supporting mainframes and PC networks. It includes RecycleIT, a maintenance module designed to help analyse and correct software bugs.

The new version of Maestro II has been expanded to cope with a wider mix of operating environments and programming languages, including Visual Basic and C++.

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