Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Success Depends Upon Strong Management and Structured Approach

T-AIMD-97-173: Published: Sep 25, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 1997.

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GAO discussed the impact of the year 2000 on automated systems and the guidelines for how to go about addressing the Year 2000 problem.

GAO noted that: (1) correcting the problem will be labor-intensive and time-consuming; it must also be accomplished while systems continue to operate; (2) typical systems contain tens or hundreds of computer programs, each with thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of lines of software code; (3) examining software code for date format problems, and making the necessary changes, is why the process is so time-consuming; (4) it will be necessary to communicate with all exchange partners to ascertain whether the systems through which data are received have been made Year 2000 compliant; (5) an important point to remember in deciding how to approach the overall problem is that, while the solution may be tedious to carry out, the challenge is not primarily technical, but managerial; (6) heads of organizational units must communicate the importance of Year 2000 compliance to employees, and work closely with the chief information officer or equivalent; (7) in its evaluation of several federal agencies' plans for addressing Year 2000 problems, GAO is finding that, in many instances, organizations need to improve their management of information technology; (8) especially in cases in which there is little experience in dealing with large-scale software conversion or systems development projects, it is important that tested, structured systems development and program management approaches be followed; (9) GAO has developed a guide that constitutes a framework for organizations to use in assessing their capability to achieve Year 2000 compliance; (10) the guide is divided into five sections that correspond with the five phases that GAO sees representing a Year 2000 program; (11) phase 1, Awareness, encompasses problem definition and executive support and sponsorship; the Year 2000 team is assemble and an overall strategy developed; (12) in phase 2, Assessment, the severity of potential failures from uncorrected systems is gauged, inventories of systems are conducted, and strategies for implementing necessary changes are developed; (13) in phase 3, Renovation, technical system elements are converted or replaced; (14) in phase 4, Validation, corrected systems are tested; (15) in phase 5, Implementation, corrected systems are put into operation; (16) management of the overall Year 2000 program and its individual projects is ongoing, throughout all phases; (17) the program should be planned and managed as a single, large information-systems project; and (18) along with planned monitoring, policies and procedures that must be in place include quality assurance, risk management, scheduling and tracking, and budgeting.

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