Y2K: beat the bug backlash

IT professionals are the heroes of Y2K but, as usual, they are unsung

IT professionals are the heroes of Y2K but, as usual, they are unsung

Champagne corks popped and fireworks fizzed - and the computers kept on working. So, by the time Britain staggered back to work, the press was leading a bug backlash. "What bug?" they asked - was it all a con?

The straight answer is "no". The absence of IT disasters is testimony to the sterling work of IT professionals over the past three years and on the night itself. Whether Y2K breakdowns quicken or slow over the next few days, it was always clear that the clock problem was the tip of the iceberg. Non-compliant data could still plague systems, and the organisations that rely on them over the next few months.

IT professionals faced with a post-Y2K budget backlash should point to the benefits for the whole business of conquering Y2K.

Y2K remediation has brought systematic project and risk management to British companies on a scale never seen before. It has ensured that companies understand the capabilities of their systems better than ever before. It obliged organisations to carry out a cull of legacy systems that leaves them well equipped to take part in the e-business revolution.

Y2K also uncovered the massive extent of the economy's reliance on computers. Instead of collapsing into Luddite despair, business leaders did the right thing - they channelled money and resources into ensuring their computers worked.

All this leaves IT professionals in a strong position. Sure, skills shortages meant that some were able to command astronomic fees over the Y2K period, but this should add to our will to resolve the skills crisis. Britain has too few IT skills because the profession is undervalued. The early success of Y2K remediation is the best argument for raising the status and clout of IT professionals. The bottom line is - at least for the UK's critical systems - you did the business. You attacked the problems methodically, hampered only by the short-sightedness that has re-emerged as a Y2K backlash.

It's not over yet, but round one of the Y2K battle went to the IT profession.

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