Y2K: The good, the bad and the crazy

It's been 10 years since the infamous 'Year 2000 bug' crashed the millennium party; Here's what we learned

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"This was a time for [IT] to do discovery and documentation," Israel agrees, and it was a lesson that he took to heart. "That became the foundation for how I manage an IT environment today." From Y2K came a clearer understanding of the need to standardize workers' roles and to thoroughly document systems, he says.

Going forward, Y2K also prompted IT to think more strategically. "It really raised awareness of how something as simple as a two-digit year can impact you down the road," Lasiter says. That led to better planning. "It opened up that thinking of what might happen in the future that we can avert now." After Y2K, he says, his staff was much more thorough in testing programs for every conceivable contingency before deploying them.

Y2K was a 'Kumbaya' moment

In tackling the millennium bug, many departments within distributed organizations worked together, sometimes for the first time, to face a common enemy. "Y2K was an interesting phenomenon, in that it knew no industry or global bounds," says Vecchio.

The scope of the problem touched every part of the organization, in every country worldwide, Lasiter points out. That meant that in the run-up to Y2K, IT had a golden opportunity to build relationships with every part of the business, as well as with other areas of distributed IT organizations. And those connections would pay off later, during future projects.

Texaco had a distributed IT organization at the time. Initially, Lasiter didn't know many people outside of his own group. "Y2K brought a lot of unity within the IT community. For this project, we were all one," he says. After that, he says, cross-functional, cross-departmental projects became much easier to coordinate.

IT saved the day -- and Millennium Eve

When the millennium came, IT was ready. Many IT managers and staff had to forgo New Year's parties, since they were either on call or standing by at work as the new year rolled in. But if the media, the public and even celebrities fretted over what might happen, most IT organizations were feeling good.

"We were confident that we wouldn't have any major outages," says Lasiter. And Texaco didn't. "The fact that we didn't have any major problems was a huge success." Still, it wasn't until later in the day on Jan. 1, after everything had been fully checked out, that IT began openly celebrating.

Tech support at Micro Focus stayed open but received no calls, remembers McGill, who is now chief technology officer for Micro Focus. In Stamford, Conn., Gartner analysts were on call. A few calls came in, says Vecchio, but most of the Y2K issues were minor inconveniences. "There was nobody who had a catastrophic failure," he says.

In New York, Israel sat with his team in one of Continuum Health Partners' facilities. "We sat in the data center eating lasagna and ziti and watched the clock," he recalls. "Y2K was a quiet and anticlimactic event."

Read also Y2K, the Bad: Fear, hype and the blame game and Y2K, the Crazy: Computer glitch or mind-blowing catastrophe?

See more in-depth features

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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