REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 12, 2000 — When the countdown to midnight began on Dec. 31, 1999, all eyes at Arthur Andersen’s Y2K Command and Control Center in Chicago were on Auckland, New Zealand. The site rolled over to a new century without so much as a hiccup. As the day progressed, field reports continued to filter in from the firm’s sites in the Middle East, Russia, the Baltic states, India, Africa and Europe. By the time North Americans were launching fireworks and popping champagne corks, Arthur Andersen’s IT pros were confident that no Y2K-related problems would crop up in any of the 80-plus countries that the global professional services organization operates in.
Arthur Andersen’s senior execs weren’t the only ones gratified to witness a non-event. News reports from all industries and corners of the globe have made it clear that IT professionals everywhere did a terrific job of swatting the Y2K bug before it could do any real damage. Organizations here and there reported some Y2K-related glitches, but by any reasonable yardstick, the turn of the millennium didn’t cause any significant problems or seriously jeopardize systems and data.
The collective cost of this state of readiness was substantial; by some accounts, it may reach an estimated $600 billion worldwide. That level of spending — and the unprecedented amount of buzz that accompanied it — offers fertile ground for the inevitable Monday morning quarterbacking. In hindsight, observers feel compelled to ask: Was spending that amount of money really necessary?
Absolutely, according to members of the IT community. They point out that it’s only because private companies and government agencies seized the initiative and invested in Y2K compliance that the occasion went as smoothly as it did. The quiet New Year’s weekend didn’t simply happen on its own; it was the culmination of an enormous amount of work by scores of IT professionals who understood the value of Y2K remediation. The evidence that the money was well spent lies in the fact that the date rollover was a non-event.
Benefits Extend Beyond Smooth Y2K Rollover
The immediate benefit of all the time, money and effort spent on Y2K readiness was a smooth transition to a new millennium. While many businesses experienced minor issues, problems were generally resolved within a matter of hours and posed no significant threat to their organizations. The true payoff on Y2K investments, however, will be spread over a much longer period of time. Jason Matusow, Year 2000 enterprise product manager at Microsoft Corp., notes that by rallying around Y2K compliance, IT professionals not only prepared their companies for what could have been a bad situation, but also gave them IT benefits for the future.
“IT organizations are realizing the benefit of taking a full and complete inventory of their hardware, software and data — in many cases, for the first time,”
“Now that companies have a better understanding of their IT environment, they can more easily plan for the future. Many organizations also streamlined their operations to address Y2K issues, and as a result they can more closely map their business processes to the technologies that are available.”
Mark Piper, director of the global Year 2000 program for Arthur Andersen, agrees that the process of Y2K compliance provided good incentive to
Piper says the firm took advantage of the Y2K deadline by ridding itself early on of obsolete software and equipment; by taking a systematic inventory of its IT assets; by assessing its business processes; and by bringing about a well-managed, consistent environment that encompasses more than 72,000 employees worldwide.
Arthur Andersen has long applied a global set of standards to support its environment in terms of the network, the infrastructure, the operating environments on its servers, the server software, the business applications on laptops and desktops, and so on, Piper explains. The process of Y2K preparation fostered even richer uniformity by bringing everyone at the firm to the same revision level.
“We have much greater assurance today that we have a robust, reliable, consistent environment,”
That positions the organization even more strongly for how well we can continue to evolve our infrastructure, and it gives us greater confidence to introduce the next wave of technology into our environment.
“Our Y2K effort was catalytic in helping ensure that we have effective, comprehensive business continuity plans in place at all of our locations worldwide,”
“And the tools, processes, and methods that were a byproduct of our Y2K program will have added business value for future initiatives with a global reach.”
Proactive Emergency Preparedness
Through their prudent Y2K efforts, many companies also gained a better understanding of their emergency response mechanisms. Despite the fact that those mechanisms remained dormant on January 1, their presence represented careful consideration and planning. As a result, businesses can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that their IT environment is prepared to cope with emergencies in an effective manner.
While the Y2K fire drill was a highly unusual event that is unlikely to repeat itself, external emergencies — such as a severe storm that disrupts processes, or a business interruption caused by a supplier or distributor — can happen at any time.
Even within Microsoft, the Y2K crisis isn’t something that just came and went. Rather, Microsoft expects that its internal Year 2000 efforts will have far-reaching implications.
“We have worked for more than two years to make sure that our global network, applications, and systems were ready for the Year 2000 issue,”
says Rick Devenuti, vice president and CIO at Microsoft.
“The real benefit to Microsoft is in the deeper understanding of our network, application base, and issue response mechanisms. The platform on which our business now runs positions us incredibly well for growth and the need for flexibility we see in the future. The return on the investment for the Year 2000 project will last for years.”
Support of Enterprise Customers Returns to
Business As Usual
The Y2K experience reinforced Microsoft’s already-strong ties with its enterprise customers. Globally, approximately 6,000 Microsoft employees were standing by during the New Year’s transition and throughout the weekend, including product support technicians, developers, field consultants, and technical specialists, all poised to lend a hand if needed. In addition, the Year 2000
set up at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters actively communicated with similar facilities established by the company’s major corporate and government customers at their sites worldwide in order to ensure a smooth transition. Similar communication centers operated at a number of Microsoft’s larger subsidiary sites, such as those in the United Kingdom, Tokyo and Australia, while smaller subsidiaries also had staff at the ready.
The level of customer support that Microsoft provided during the Y2K transition was unique but not unusual. Microsoft is in the practice of staying in constant contact with its enterprise customers — a relationship that includes meeting with CIOs and IT managers at customer sites on a regular basis. Microsoft also works closely with its business allies to mutually resolve any potential customer concerns.
“Microsoft is invested in making sure enterprise customers receive the service they need,”
“The level of support we provided to customers for the Y2K transition indicates Microsoft’s willingness to go above and beyond the norm in terms of customer satisfaction.”