Emory Report

November 29, 1999

 Volume 52, No. 13

With month to go, Emory sees a green light for Y2K

With the Big Day still more than a month away, Emory is ready and waiting for that much-hyped moment when the calendar rolls from 1999 to 2000 and the world stands by to see what happens.

The University has been working on Y2K readiness since early 1998, and Emory Healthcare's efforts began in 1996, and according to the people integrally involved, New Year's Eve can't get here fast enough.

"I'm ready--I wish it could happen tomorrow," said Byron Nash, Year 2000 project manager for Information Technology Division, adding that the amount of testing ITD has done on its systems is unparalleled in the division's history. "Each system has been tested individually, then integrated and tested again. And again. I don't think they could be tested any more."

Emory's efforts have actually been three-pronged: Health Sciences and Emory Healthcare's efforts are headed up by Chief Information Officer Ron Palmich; a University steering committee, chaired by Vice President for Finance Frank Huff, reviewed readiness and contingency plans for every Emory unit not in Health Sciences; and Nash leads ITD's own efforts.

Over the last few years, these three teams have identified, tested, modified and/or replaced computer systems in every corner of the University. For example, Huff said the steering committee broke down the University into four units: the libraries, Facilities Management, academic and administrative units. But also to be tested were devices with date-sensitive embedded chips-some 22,600 of them, in the case of Emory Healthcare. Finally, there are Emory's vendors: will Georgia Power be ready? How about the Red Cross, or major insurance providers? On all fronts, say Emory's Y2K trio, the University is as ready as it can possibly be.

"Because of the complexity and decentralization of the University," Huff said, "there's plenty of room for something untoward to happen, but we feel we have addressed that by searching exhaustively for what could go wrong."

Palmich summed up: "Let 2000 begin--we're ready."

Still, no matter how much testing is done, there is no way to simulate all systems in all areas of society in every region of the world rolling into the new millenium time zone by time zone. So Emory, like any other major institution, will have staff working at zero hour to monitor and make things go smoothly.

Nash will be working this New Year's Eve, as will many of his ITD colleagues. Palmich said there "will be some people here who wouldn't normally be here" that night, but he added that Emory Healthcare won't go overboard.

"If you have some kind of problem, you want your people fresh," he said. "You don't want to have had all your people up all night. So we'll have a plan that indicates what people will be assigned to what hours."

Complicating--or perhaps simplifying--matters is the fact that the moment of truth occurs on a weekend this year, and "regular" business doesn't resume until the morning of Monday, Jan. 3. This could give businesses extra time to correct whatever might go wrong, but it also could make people harder to reach.

And even though Palmich, Huff and Nash are all confident nothing major will go wrong, they do admit there will likely be small problems that crop up. "That spreadsheet you've been working off of for 10 years, you might want to check it to make sure it's still providing accurate information," Huff said.

Also, just because a device is not Y2K-compliant doesn't mean it will stop working at midnight, Jan. 1, 2000. Its function might not be date-sensitive, and the noncompliance would never be an issue, or the problem might not crop up until hours, days, months, even years down the road.

"Basically, 90 percent of the problems will present themselves and be corrected in the first week," Palmich said, and the rest will be fixed over the next 90 days.

But all three men reiterated Emory is as ready as it possibly can be. FMD has received assurances from all the major utility providers that they are also ready. Palmich reminded, however, that interruptions could occur that have nothing to do with Y2K; people should not let the unavoidable Y2K media hype make them hypersensitive to every occurrence, he said.

Nash said the steering committee and ITD will soon release a "Y2K hotline" for people to call if they have questions and/or concerns. The division maintains a website dedicated to Y2K information at www.emory.edu/ITD/YEAR2000/.

Another point all three pushed home is that Emory would not be as ready as it is without the hard work and sacrifice of everyone, not just their own project teams. "It took the cooperation of all the University, putting off important things until after this passed, to make it happen," Nash said. "This worked because of so many people willing to take it so seriously."

-Michael Terrazas

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