Selling management on your Y2K efforts requires a winning proposal and excellent implementation. Here's how to ensure buy-in.

Y2K Success Stories from the Field: Pitching to Management on Y2K

Selling management on your Y2K efforts requires a winning proposal and excellent implementation. Here's how to ensure buy-in.

As IT professionals, our focus tends to lean toward technology—buying the latest and greatest tools and toys, documenting the latest installation, and upgrading procedures. However, the Year 2000 dilemma’s subtle strike on information technology is its financial bite on corporate budgets. It’s not enough to anticipate how the new millenium will affect our networks technically. We also need to understand its financial impacts. The fact is, management buy-in is key to achieving a successful Y2K-compliant network.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my company currently addressing Y2K issues?
  • Does my company’s leadership understand the technological impact of Y2K?
  • Do top managers understand the need to be Y2K-compliant?
  • Does my company’s leadership understand the resources necessary to accomplish a Y2K-compliant network?
  • Are they prepared to budget and allocate the necessary resources to such a project?

How do you convince management of the importance of Y2K to your company? How do you create a plan to present to management? Finally, how do you create a Y2K upgrade plan?

The Details
  • Subject: A division of a major electronics firm.
  • Size: Just under 1,000 nodes.
  • Current and future OS plans: Currently, Unix, Macintosh, and Windows 95, moving to Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3,with plans to upgrade to SP4 is necessary via SMS.
  • Began Y2K testing: 3rd Quarter 1998 (after all documentation ws approved and finalized).
  • Expect completion: End of 1998.
  • Size of Y2K team: About 10 people.

5 Steps to a Proposal

First, you need to understand management’s role in and view of Y2K. In my company, where management is current with Y2K issues, corporate initiatives began years ago, setting the stage for a well-structured process. If your company hasn’t considered or addressed Y2K issues, you need to act fast.

Now that we're into 1999, time is critical. The most important lead into any discussion with management about year 2000 is the powerful and compelling fact that if your company isn’t compliant, it may experience a business boycott. Many compliant companies, in an effort to maintain and prosper in the new millenium, will refuse to conduct business with non-compliant companies. This could be devastating to your business. Make certain your management team understands that this mandate is becoming more commonplace. Next, get started on five quick steps to create a successful Year 2000 proposal.

Our Testing Lab
Our testing lab consisted of a Windows NT server (200MHz) and an NT laptop (which was part of our leasing program). The cost was minimal since we were able to test unallocated machines in our lab before distributing them to our user base. I suspect that the cost would run several thousands of dollars to set up. Our lease program is a result of our Y2K effort. The laptop hardware is Y2K-compliant, so we needed to test software, backups, printing, and e-mail. We also initiated a Y2K upgrade to PCs that didn’t necessarily need to be replaced. We established minimum standards for the PCs on our network (that was one Y2K initiative), which included RAM, hard drive, clock speed, and OS (NT4 SP3) minimums.

1 Gather as much objective information about Y2K as possible. If you’re your own IT department, be sure to spend some time after hours gathering information. Numerous Web sites detail the latest news on Y2K issues (see “Additional Information”). Some of these sites feature hardware and software tools for testing compliance. A great number of trade books also address the many impacts.

2 Compile the information relevant to your company. Don’t choke your managers with pounds of hypertext documents printed off the Web featuring doom-and-gloom melodramas about the Y2K dilemma. Focus on your company’s needs. Make a strong and serious attempt to empathize with management instead of broadcasting your newly acquired knowledge. Addressing pertinent issues will only strengthen their consideration of your plan. For example, if your company deals heavily with financial matters, put an emphasis on researching how Y2K can affect spreadsheets, payrolls, and investment applications. Research as much as you can, so when it comes time to test your solution, you’ve covered all the bases.

3 Research your vendors’ Web sites for more information. If your company uses Dell computers and Hewlett-Packard printers, for example, what do those vendors have to say about Y2K? Investigate software vendors’ Web sites, such as those for Adobe and Microsoft. Most major vendors have Y2K links explaining their efforts and provide documentation explaining how they’ve tested for compliance. Some hardware and software may require only upgrade patches rather than replacement. Be sure to indicate what’s needed only for your company, not for Y2K compliance in general. Be empathetic to cost considerations. Propose replacement, but be ready to upgrade as a minimal effort. If necessary, contact the vendor directly via customer support or a direct sales contact if you need more specific information.

4 Remember the company’s budget. When considering your proposal, make certain you create a worst-case scenario and a contingency plan. Worst-case may entail replacing most hardware and software in your company. You really don’t know how management will react. Will they reach deep into the firm’s pockets, or immediately shun the idea? Therefore, include a hard-hitting worst-case situation, but soften it with some additional options. In your contingency plan, be as frugal as possible. That let’s management know that you want to help address the Y2K issues using limited resources.

5 Show your research to the management team. The final step is to present your well-researched proposal. If your company is large enough to justify it, I suggest that you set up a mini-conference at which you can show slides and distribute copies of your information. Be sure that the business boycott issue appears first and foremost, since in my experience that issue strikes home quickly. Start with a brief explanation of the Y2K problem and move into how it affects your company. Present information on your vendors and their testing. Include statistical information from your research regarding global impact. Let management know you’ve contacted vendors and are prepared to work closely with these vendors to achieve compliance. Your proposal should also include time factors for in-house testing efforts, in addition to possible budget adjustments. Conclude your presentation with your financial scenarios (worst-case and contingency), and immediately follow up with an offer to propose an implementation plan. At the end of your presentation, be sure to conduct a question and answer period. This allows you to reveal more information than you had in your presentation and gives management the opportunity to express concerns. You may also find that you’ve overlooked some important issues.

Is the Year 2000 problem just a lot of hype, or is it a real concern in your company?*
58% 31% 11%
0299mcp_hourglass1.GIF (2529 bytes)
Real concern Lots of hype What problem?
*Based on 384 responses to a visitor poll at mcpmag.com.

6 Steps to the Implementation Plan

Since your implementation plan will need management approval, make it even more perfect than your proposal. Your plan demands high detail and strict scheduling, especially if you’re left with only nine months to the year 2000!

Again, customize the plan around your company’s needs. Your primary concerns will be your networking equipment (routers, servers, and the like), workstations (hardware, BIOS, and OS), software (business-critical applications including e-mail), and peripherals (such as printers and tape drives). These are the basic considerations.

I suggest that in the process of creating your implementation plan, you address longer-term goals with your equipment. In my division, we implemented a PC lease program with standard configurations with minimum settings for RAM, hard drive size, processing speed, and standard software packages for business-critical needs. While this may not be suitable for all companies, it’s a good idea to propose standardization. This will definitely ease your company’s financial considerations in the future. You’ll also want to consider raising the bar on those specifications. For example, if the systems in your company each have different amounts of RAM and hard drive space and are purchased from different vendors, you may want to consider streamlining and increasing those sizes for the future. If your workstations are running under 32M and 64M of RAM, propose 128M. If your average hard drive size is one or two gigabytes, propose four as a minimum. These are just suggestions to ease future expansion costs.

So, let’s get to the plan. Here are the six steps to a great implementation:

1. Preliminary. In this step, you need to develop a strict schedule. Start backward from the end of the year. You know your deadline is year-end, but don’t stretch it that far. Give yourself some buffer time. If you can bolster your team with additional staff, now is the time. Set up a team and assign tasks based on the following steps. You’ll also need to start documenting procedures that will be followed for the remaining steps. Procedural documentation is critical to implementation.

2 Inventory. One of the least entertaining but most important steps is gathering all the information on all of your company’s network and operation systems. Include routers, servers, workstations, peripherals, and any software currently owned by the company. Enter this information into a spreadsheet for later steps. This is a good step to assign to your additional staff (if you’re fortunate enough to get them).

3 Assessment. Once your spreadsheet is complete, analyze the information. Match your inventory items with the information from your research. Find out what patches and upgrades are necessary for each item. For example, if you’re running legacy operating systems, you may want to consider upgrading to Windows NT 4.0 with the latest service pack, which, Microsoft assures us, is Y2K-compliant. In some cases, operating system patches will provide you with a Y2K solution. Remember your standardization efforts here. Gather all pertinent vendor information regarding products and testing procedures. A variety of testing software and tools can help you determine if your hardware and software is compliant. (I can’t make recommendations, since I wasn’t responsible for picking tools in my division.) Be sure to include costs for proposed upgrades and replacements.

4 Planning. In this step, you’ll want to share with management the results of your findings to date. Impress them with your detailed inventory spreadsheet highlighting what’s necessary for each item to reach Y2K-compliance, including the approximate associated costs. Here’s where you’ll have a more defined idea of worst case and contingency costs. Distribute your procedural documentation for the remainder of the implementation with management.

5 Conversion. This is another critical step because it involves defining step-by-step procedures for testing your upgraded and/or replaced hardware and software. My suggestion here is to set up a test lab where you can set future dates on servers and workstations, run date-sensitive applications and macros, copy and print files from servers and workstations, send and print e-mail messages, and the like. If you lack the resources to set up a test lab, schedule an “off” weekend where company staff won’t be allowed to work on the network (including dialing in). Then set your systems forward to 11 p.m. on December 31, 1999 and start testing functionality. [Read “A Matter of Due Diligence” for information about how to achieve this.—Ed.]

6 Implementation. Here it is—the final step to Y2K compliance. After you’ve completed thorough testing, it’s time to implement your solutions across your company. Deploy all your new hardware, software, and upgrades. Remember to give yourself extra time at the end of the rollout so you’re not spending New Year’s Eve with that special workstation instead of that special someone.

At the end of your implementation, follow up with management to address the success of the rollout. Let your clients and vendors know you’ve addressed the Y2K issue to the best of your ability and that you look forward to doing business with them in the next millenium.

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