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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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As this article goes to press it is unlikely that anyone in the civilized world is unaware that there are potential computer problems that may manifest themselves on Jan. 1, 2000. Opinions vary dramatically as to exactly what the threat is and how widespread it will be. Many are putting their faith in the years of work major companies are putting into making sure their own computer systems do not fail; but there is a growing concern that not all organizations started early enough, have put sufficient resources to do the job, or can guarantee perfect results.

There is a growing expectation that, despite all the efforts some systems will fail. Even if we could guarantee our internal systems will work, what business does not depend on the computerized systems of external suppliers and the infrastructure to provide power, water, and communication systems? What about transportation, emergency services and even government? The external threat could be bigger than the internal one and is far less predictable! This leaves little doubt that the Millennium Bug is a business continuity threat.

This is the first column in a series for business continuity planners that will raise and discuss Y2K issues that may not have been identified elsewhere. We thought it most appropriate to start with some thoughts on what our overall approach should be.

 Legend has it that every seventh wave at sea is larger than the rest. This is the wave mariners fear. It’s also the seventh wave that surfers wait for, prepare for, and hope to use to demonstrate their prowess. Those of us in the business continuity management field are preparing for a myriad of threats that could come at any time. However, for the first time in our short history, we are beginning to see a threat that although we don’t yet fully comprehend its likely impact, we do know is heading towards us all at a frightening speed. How do we prepare? How do we ride it to success? There seem to be three options - (1) run for shore, (2) prepare for one mad thrill that will take us high up on the beach, or (3) ride the wave while ensuring that, once it passes, we are still able to ride the ones behind it.

We believe that the Year 2000 is a business continuity issue. So much of our working environment is dependant on some form of computerized control (from electrical power to elevator systems, from water supply to transit systems) some of which is almost bound to fail. If business continuity management is not firmly entrenched as a way of doing business in your organization, here is the opportunity to get it established. The next 15 months will be a wild ride but you will have everybody’s attention. If, on the other hand, you duck the wave your credibility may be damaged. If you aren’t prepared for the big one, what sort of professional are you? There is, however, a danger in over-emphasis. If we put our natural caution aside in the excitement and focus only on this one event, we may be blind-sided by other threats to our organization’s continuity.

Our suggestion is to persuade your organization that the Year 2000 is a special threat— but is a business continuity issue nonetheless. Use the event to demonstrate that good business continuity management practice will help your organization deal with this threat. You may be able to develop some Y2K specific elements to guide your business units on preparing, but don’t throw out basic principles just because this event is surrounded by a lot of hype. Lastly, make sure that, whatever you do leaves the practice of business continuity more deeply entrenched in your organization so that it will be able to deal with the business disruption incidents that will occur in February to December 2000, and in 2001, 2002 and so on. It is not the end of the world we are facing - just an expected transition point!


Next in the series - What’s in a Date? Just what are the implications of the circle on the calendar?

Reader comments are welcome. Please send to John Newton, Fax:416.929.3621 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Rex Pattison, Fax: 416.866.5668 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.