Although industry generally discounts the "human effect" of Year 2000, it is a reality, and a moral obligation that companies should shoulder, says Dr. Ed Yardeni, chief economist of Deutsche Bank Securities in New York. "Communities need leadership, and who better to lead than companies? Companies rely on the same services households rely on. They need electricity, phone service, water service and sanitation. We all need each other to really reveal the extent to which we are having problems. "Some believe there isn’t much that can be done at this late date to mitigate the human effect. But companies should recognize that a problem exists, and then address the problem as part of the business plan," Wnek says.
To plan effectively for the Year 2000 crisis and all it could entail, we must face all facets of the problem head-on – including the human effect. Take off the blinders and think diagonally instead of vertically or horizontally, and identify all the different ways your organization can be affected by the absence of key personnel or the collapse of other companies who are critical to the completion of your mission. Remember that your company does not exist in a vacuum – the preparedness or lack thereof of other companies could have a lasting effect on your business. For example, if planes are not flying, your raw materials do not arrive as scheduled, and you lose customers to the competition because your product is not ready.
Be prepared to modify how you do business for several years – remember that any Year 2000-related failures will probably last much longer than a day or two. You are looking at a full-blown disaster for your organization and those you impact unless you are prepared on all fronts and help those you interact with on a daily basis prepare as well.
Some companies are, in fact, doing their part. "I’ve seen some companies that are very alarmed about it and are reaching out to their employees and communities to try to work together," Yardeni says. "I visited a utility company in the Midwest recently, and its management had a very credible outreach program to their customers and vendors."
But just because a select few are shouldering their moral responsibilities, that doesn’t mean the rest are following suit. In fact, companies who are going to great lengths to help the bottom of the food chain are few and far between.
Up until now, legal impediments, whether real or anticipated, have had the effect of hindering information exchange on Y2K problems and solutions. Recent passage of the Year 2000 Information Readiness and Disclosure Act should make it easier for companies to disclose Y2K information and should ultimately make continuity planning for this particular crisis more effective.
Michael Braham is a Vice Chair of the Private and Public Businesses International Board of Directors. He is also the Director of CommGuard, Enterprise-Wide Continuity Services at Bell Atlantic Federal Systems. Braham serves on the National Board of Directors of the Association of Contingency Planners and is Sub-Committee Chair for the Leadership Coalition for Global Business Protection.