Most patients that are wheeled into hospital emergency rooms are not given a choice of which doctor will treat them. The expectation is that the medical professionals on duty are qualified, experienced and committed to ensuring their patients "pull through." As we move ever closer to the new millennium, the media frenzy over the potentially disastrous consequences of ineffective Year 2000 (Y2K) solutions is heating up. The burning question is no longer, "How can we make our IT systems Y2K compliant?" Rather, it is, "What will my business do if my Y2K solution doesn't live up to expectations?"

IT and business consultancies will virtually become emergency rooms for injured organizations that thought they were compliant, but now realize they need assistance from specialists. Businesses with minor fractures can be dealt with in a fairly routine manner. Organizations in critical condition will need serious attention immediately.

Y2K Disaster aversion

Assess Critical Suppliers: Does your supplier have the capability, experience and expertise to provide a full Y2K solution for your organization, including assessment, remediation and testing services? Should you consider retaining a firm to provide project management services overseeing your entire Y2K solution, and the vendors providing these services, similar to purchasing an insurance policy?

Don't Trust--Test: Your systems have undergone remediation in separate sections or components, essentially in a vacuum. Do they now perform correctly enterprise-wide? Your systems must be tested in this context. You must look beyond IT at the underlying business processes that enable your business (embedded chips) to run effectively.

Plan for Contingencies Now:Identify mission-critical systems and prepare "what-if" scenarios in anticipation of some remediation errors. Your remediation efforts will not be 100 percent error free. Prepare for these errors now by instituting an enterprise-wide contingency plan. This is essential if your organization is to survive in the new millennium.

Today, most top-flight organizations have embraced the need to upgrade their systems in order to survive in the Year 2000 and have called in information technology and management consultancy firms to assist them in achieving compliance. However, some businesses are going to come to a grinding halt when they realize that the systems they thought were fixed are now even bigger disasters. They'll turn to the consultants who specialize in Year 2000 issues, only to find that most of them are busy or incapable of responding quickly enough to help the business survive.

The best approach is to put contingency solutions in place today so that if a system should fail, the enterprise can survive anyway. Organizations must realize that not all of their Year 2000 remediation efforts will be perfect, so they must think about what they can do and control in the short term to ensure corporate survival. They must evaluate which systems are mission critical and thus require immediate fixes, and which will simply "slow down" certain business processes. With time running out, such a contingency plan is an absolute necessity.

The enterprise must be examined in its entirety, evaluating key processes or redesigning and outsourcing critical functions. The goal is not necessarily to preserve the organization, but rather to ensure that the business operates efficiently and delivers solid dividends to owners or shareholders. Rapid resumption of business functions is crucial for companies that have undergone a "near-death experience" that a Y2K solution failure can bring. The first step with any Y2K disaster recovery is to define which "patients" are merely sick and which are critically ill. Companies that are hemorrhaging and on the brink of collapse need attention immediately.

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