Gurus face mixed fortunes in aftermath of year 2000

Y2K experts have different measures of success in their attempts to reinvent themselves

Y2K experts have different measures of success in their attempts to reinvent themselves

Bill Goodwin

Robin Guenier, the man who made his name berating the Government over its policies on the date bug problem, is about to re-emerge as an expert in electronic commerce.

The ex-director of Taskforce 2000 is the latest member of Britain's small band of Y2K gurus to use their expertise and notoriety to launch new careers in other fields.

Guenier, who has been busy lecturing on e-commerce since the start of the year, has also been working behind the scenes as an adviser to dotcom start-ups.

Medix-uk.com, an Internet-based information service for doctors, was unveiled this week, with Guenier taking over as chairman. He is also advising a second company which is seeking venture capital backing.

"Doing this is what I have always done - running a business. Launching an e-commerce service is the sort of thing I have always been used to doing. It feels normal," said Guenier.

Guenier joins Co-operation 2000's Martyn Emery, among the pantheon of former year 2000 gurus who are successfully reinventing themselves as e-commerce specialists.

Emery, who has joined application service provider 4thwave, is also running an Internet retailing forum for the BBC, BT and Marks & Spencer, and has plans for e-commerce projects with the governments of Oman and Mauritius.

US year 2000 specialist Peter de Jager has moved from being a Y2K guru to become a "change consultant". He is putting together a monthly newsletter focusing on issues surrounding organisational change.

Karl Feilder, director of Greenwich Mean Time, which provided software to solve Y2K problems on PC networks, has fallen on harder times. Although Feilder is close to a venture capital deal in the US that will allow him to market a range of desktop management software, the funds did not arrive in time to save Greenwich Mean Time's UK branch from liquidation.

Don Cruickshank, chairman of Action 2000, appears to be the biggest beneficiary from Y2K. He has gone on from Action 2000 to head a hard-hitting review in to the banking industry, and more recently has taken over as chairman of the London Stock Exchange.

For the time being, Gwynneth Flower, managing director of Action 2000, seems to have drawn the short straw.

Flower is staying on at the Department of Trade & Industry with a handful of Action 2000 employees, helping to wind up Action 2000 as a company and producing the final reports on the date bug problem for the Government.

Action 2000 managing director winds up bug work for DTI

Gwynneth Flower, managing director of the millennium bug watchdog Action 2000, is looking forward to the day she can finally escape from her windowless office in the basement of the Department of Trade & Industry.

Although Action 2000's millennium bug campaign ended nearly six months ago, Flower and a small team of lawyers and accountants still have a lot of work to do.

Between completing final reports, paperwork and company accounts, Flower's priority is to make sure that lessons Action 2000 has learned in two years of campaigning do not go to waste. The way Action 2000 successfully brought the private and public sector together, for instance, is an approach that could be used much more widely in government, Flower believes.

"The problem is that the cultures of the public and private sector are very different," she said. "I think the key lesson is you have to have an Action 2000 model. You need something that acts as a cushion between the public and the private sector."

Flower has been busily briefing ministers Margaret Beckett and Patricia Hewitt, and the Treasury on this and other year 2000 lessons. But the day-to-day work of completing the paper work, and liaising with the accountants and lawyers, is she says dull compared to the cut and thrust of the millennium bug campaign. "The fun has gone out of life at the moment. It's grindstone work."

Not surprisingly Flower can't wait to move onto other things. Perhaps another chief executive role if the right job came her way, she said. Maybe something that builds on her knowledge of government machinery and her contacts in Whitehall. "As long as its tempting enough and it is something worthwhile, I am considering anything."

"We have been in dungeons here for two years. We shall all be glad to get out," she said.

This was last published in May 2000

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