Major systems already compliant
Year 2000 Task Force is up to the challenge
by Barbara Black
No, your office computer is not going to blow up at midnight, January 1, 2000. The problems that could result from the millennial turnover can probably be avoided with the help of the Year 2000 (Y2K) Task Force.
A generation ago, when computers were being designed, the date of the year was indicated merely by the last two digits, such as "74" for 1974. As we approach the millennium, this has proved to be a shortsighted policy, because "00" would be interpreted as 1900 rather than 2000.
So many companies, banks and government departments now depend on computers that a mini-industry has developed just to re-program systems to avoid massive breakdowns.
The glitches have already started, according to John Woodrow, Director of Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS). Systems for long-term employment contracts and multi-year research grants, faced with dates after 1999, have given the electronic equivalent of a helpless shrug. "We have had to deal with those problems manually," Woodrow said.
The major systems at Concordia have already been made Y2K-compliant. The student information system, because it was built here, was overhauled in-house. The financial information system is being totally replaced. The library system is now compliant, and new versions of systems software are being tested for Advancement and Human Resources/Payroll.
However, smaller systems remain to be fine-tuned in several administrative departments, auxiliary services and the Faculties, so the Year 2000 Task Force has been set up to make sure that so far as possible, every computer is covered.
The committee's Web site includes a "resources inventory," which computer users can consult to find out the status of the system they are using. The inventory will either show that your system is already Year-2000-compliant, or show the plans in place to correct it. If you don't see your system there, you should inform your representative on the task force (See list, below).
Some computer systems deal with dates all the time -- those which make bookings for rooms, for example. Other applications are not so obvious. Even a PC used only for word-processing has an internal clock that must be adjusted.
"Changing the system to recognize the four-digit date is relatively simple," Woodrow said. "The trick is to find all the places where the date is referenced. For example, if data is sorted by date, you have to change the sort application. In some cases, there are problems of the space available on a line in a printed report. If you go from two digits to four, will you have to shorten a person's name to make it fit the page?"
Concordia is relatively lucky, because compared to some universities, we're fairly centralized, Woodrow said. "We're fortunate in our administrative systems, because we've had a coordinated approach to handling our administrative data, with single major systems." Still, there are some lower-level systems around the University that should be updated.
"I'd like people to have a general knowledge of the problem," Woodrow said. "It's relatively straightforward, and we have a process underway. Nobody's going to be left behind." Funding of about $100,000 has been set aside for the Y2K project, mainly for staff, but the committee hopes to get the bugs out for much less.
Concordia's Year 2000 committee Web site is at http://mac-Peterp.concordia.ca/year-2000-menu.html. For more on Y2K in general, they recommend http://www.year2000.com
Year 2000 Task Force members:
Chair: Vice-Rector Services delegate John Woodrow
Secretary: Patricia Posius
Arts and Science: Andrew McAusland
Commerce and Administration:
Fine Arts: Neil Schwartzman
School of Graduate Studies:
IITS: Peter Paquet
Libraries: Peter Page
Office of the Registrar: Terry Too
Physical Resources: Michael Di Grappa
Dean of Students delegate:
Administration: Jackie Chegrinec