Y2K, the Bad: Fear, hype and the blame game

Tech-wise, Millennium Eve was so quiet, some started to wonder -- did IT overspend on Y2K?

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While Y2K projects succeeded, they also represented a huge cost in terms of lost opportunities, he says. "Y2K remediation had no value to the company other than that the company could run on January first. You lost the opportunity to do positive systems development."

Projects that could have helped business increase profitability or market share simply sat idle for two years.

Business executives didn't like that, Ingevaldson says, but with too few resources and Y2K remediation inflating IT budgets, there was simply no choice. "That's the way it had to go."

Long hours took a toll

To meet deadlines, many IT organizations had to work straight out and with few breaks. "We were working double shifts up until two weeks before [the end of the year]," AMC's Israel recalls.

At Texaco, vacations were suspended for a period of time. "In the second half of 1999, we were literally locked down. No one could have any time off," Lasiter says. Later, he says, employees were rewarded with compensation time and bonuses. But for much of 1999, it was all hands on deck.

Many IT workers spent late nights and weekends at work so that they could test systems after hours, when they could be safely taken offline. "We were literally doing full system backups, setting the clocks on everything to ten minutes before midnight to see how things would run," Lasiter says.

New software still needed attention

What annoyed Lasiter the most was the time spent testing relatively new systems that weren't a problem. Y2K compliance audits required thorough testing even of new systems that didn't use a 2-digit year. "No one was exempt from the rigorous testing plan we had, even if you had newer applications that didn't have Y2K issues," Lasiter recalls.

He said a rising tide of fear drove management to ask for all sorts of redundancies that probably weren't needed -- and ran up the bill. "They had that fear that all of those horror stories would come true and that our IT systems and applications wouldn't run, data would be corrupted and communications wouldn't work anymore," he says. So IT installed redundant lines and other emergency backup measures. "You name it, the redundancy was there, just in case," he says.

Hudson was appalled when vendors of application software packages that had no known Y2K issues added last minute patches to -- in his view -- cover their butts with their lawyers. "We had to put those patches in so we could get the Y2K certification from the vendors," he says. That created extra work for his staff, which had to install each patch and retest the systems, even though reports from outside consultants confirmed that those systems worked fine in the first place.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ingevaldson was disgusted to find that even some of his newest software wasn't Y2K-compliant. "There were some [noncompliant] applications that we had bought relatively recently. We had to modify those, and that really pissed me off," he says. "To have outside software [be] incompatible, that just blew my mind."

New Year's Eve was a work night for techies

Although IT executives across the globe were confident that they had the problem licked, a nagging fear followed them right up until New Year's Eve. While most people were out celebrating the turn of the century, IT executives and their staffs were either monitoring events in the office or standing by at home.

"Nobody in the IT organization was celebrating, because we were all on call," recalls Lasiter, who is now an IT strategy consultant in Houston.

Concern over what could happen was so intense that in some companies, CIOs were sending updates to top management as midnight came and went. "One of my roles was to keep the president and board chairman apprised," says Ingevaldson. That kind of scrutiny was unprecedented, he says, and added to the pressure.

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