Trying to find useful information at the Microsoft we site

When trying to find information about the Year 2000 problem on the Microsoft web site, we had to fight our way through various links until at last we found some kind of information: nearly 2 dozen different files, one of the even containing just 2 meaningfull sentences! The files sum up to a total of 527960 bytes which have to be downloaded. Quite an enormous online time for so few words to read.... Just remember those 2 sentences already mentioned! We admit the file containing only 2 sentences made us furious.

So we tried to strip off the HTML garbage, and see what could be done to make the text readable. The result is this very file you are reading now.

It has meager 54464 Bytes. That is about 1/10 th. of the original file size for just the same aount of text PLUS this intro!

We reduced download time by more than (estimated) 99 percent, as all the GIFs now are omitted! Readability is enhanced.

We make this little experiment to show the net community how valuable bandwidth and valuable online time is spoiled by HTML junk found in many web pages.

The copyright for the original contents of the following text is with Microsoft. If you want to see the originals: Just go there by using the links at the end of this page. At your own risk... (*)


(*) Beware! The Microsoft web site is pested with Javascript!


Microsoft Year 2000 Resource Center

The Text (© Microsoft)

1. Contents
2. What is the Year 2000 problem?
3. Why do we have this problem?
4. What are some potential consequences of Year 2000 problems?
5. What kinds of computer systems are affected by the Year 2000 problem?
6. What is Microsoft's Year 2000 strategy?
7. What is Microsoft's statement of compliance?
8. How will Microsoft deliver information about its products' compliance or non-compliance?
9. How can I get the Microsoft Year 2000 Product Guide?
10. What are the main points of exposure for the PC?
11. How are Microsoft products most vulnerable to Year 2000 problems?
12. What are the test criteria that Microsoft uses to validate date handling within its products?
13. Does Microsoft recommend that customers utilize two-digit or four-digit data entry?
14. What are Microsoft's recommendations for working with the Year 2000 on a PC?
15. What are Microsoft's recommendations for working with the PC BIOS issue?
16. Does Microsoft have any process recommendations for organizations dealing with the Year 2000 problem?
17. What are the driving business issues for Year 2000 decision-making?
18. What steps should organizations take when dealing with the Year 2000 problem?
19. What will the effects of a shortage of time and resources do to the decision-making process?
20. How can Microsoft help this process?
21. What is the Modified Rapid Replacement Strategy?

1. Contents

The Year 2000 issue is not difficult to understand from the technical point of view. It is the scope of affected systems and business processes that makes this problem so challenging. This list of frequently asked questions will answer many of your questions around the Year 2000 issue.

2. What is the Year 2000 problem?

The Year 2000 issue is not difficult to understand from the technical point of view. It is the scope of affected systems and business processes that makes this problem so challenging. The problem stems from three main issues: two-digit date storage, leap year calculations, and special meanings for dates. The implications of these three issues need to be addressed by all organizations. Unfortunately, there will be no simple fix to the year 2000 issue, no "silver bullet," due to the fact that the use of dates for calculations is pervasive throughout software and that usage is not standardized.

Two-digit date storage

The most common and most damaging problem occurs when software has been written to store and/or manipulate dates using only two digits for the year. Calculations built upon these dates will not execute properly because they will not see dates in the 21st century as being larger numbers than those in the 20th century.


         2000 - 1998 =   2

but        00 -   98 = -98

or         00 -   98 =  98    if the application does
                              not allow negative numbers

The result of this might be that your accounting software sees all accounts receivable as overdue due to the fact that no customers have paid in 98 years.

The two-digit date convention assumes that the century is "19." This assumption was regarded as a necessity in the early days of commercial computing because of the high cost of computer storage and memory. Today, the usage of two-digit dates is perpetuated by the sociological context in which dates are referenced in our daily lives. Individuals choose to use two-digit dates due to the fact that the human mind handles dates contextually whereas the computer requires the explicit expression of dates.

Leap year calculations

Leap years are calculated by a simple set of rules. Unfortunately, there are systems and applications that do not recognize the year 2000 as a leap year. This will cause all dates following February 29, 2000 to be offset incorrectly by one day. The rules for leap year calculations are as follows. A year is a leap year if it is divisible by four, but if it is divisible by 100 it is NOT a leap year, but if it is divisible by 400 it IS a leap year. Thus, the Year 2000 is a special case leap year that happens once every 400 years.

Special meanings for dates

The third main Year 2000 problem is more commonly found in older code bases. In order to write more efficient code which allowed for the use of less memory, date fields were sometimes used to provide special functionality. The most common date used for this was 9/9/99. In some applications the use of the special date meant "save this data item forever" or "remove this data item automatically after 30 days," or "sort this data item to the top of the report." Within each organization, special date codes may have been used differently. This is one of the main reasons that no single tool can locate all uses and/or misuses of date data.

Technically, the problem is simple to understand. The solutions to the problem tend to be fairly simple as well. The scope of the problem, however, makes it difficult. Every piece of hardware, software, and embedded system must be taken into account. Everything from mission-critical central accounting systems to small convenience applications must be examined for date-handling and how those dates might affect the rest of the environment.

3. Why do we have this problem?

Expensive memory costs
In the early days of Information Services, memory was very expensive. By asking the developers to conserve just two bits per record in memory (the "19" of 1975, for example), organizations were able to realize millions of dollars in savings. In addition, older applications were not expected to be used 20-30 years into the future. Furthermore, the programming habits and processes put into place in the early 1970s still exist today. The use of the two-digit shortcut for efficiency is still utilized today.

There is a sociological aspect to the problem as well. In our society, people automatically represent years in two digits. For example, when was the last time you wrote out all four digits of the century on a check? When was the last time you filled in your birth date on a form and used all four digits of the year?

Human nature plays a big part in why this problem exists. In the 1960s, programmers only used a single digit for the century. In 1968, they started to look at 1970 and wondered how they were going to deal with it. At the time, they knew that the year 2000 would be a problem, but it was so far in the future. Programmers never imagined that their applications would still be in use today and that they would therefore be susceptible to the Year 2000 problem.

4. What are some potential consequences of Year 2000 problems?

The potential impact of the Year 2000 problem is difficult to quantify. There are two possible scenarios to be examined.

Complete system breakdown.
The first form of failure is that of complete breakdown. It will be easy to identify this because a complete failure is obvious and, therefore, easy to detect. In the event of a complete failure, contingency plans can be implemented and immediate action can be taken. For most individuals working on the Year 2000, this is the preferred type of failure due to its conspicuous nature.

Partial breakdown
The second form of failure is that of partial breakdown. The partial breakdown is the more difficult problem to recognize and will have further-reaching consequences than that of complete failure. If a system only partially fails, it may not be obvious to the user of that system. In the case of financial transactions, a bad calculation may produce results that are assumed to be correct. The result of a partial failure will be the loss of trust in the computing environment's ability to deliver reliable, consistent information.

5. What kinds of computer systems are affected by the Year 2000 problem?

This problem exists in the mainframe, mini, Unix and PC environments. The mainframe has the worst overall problem, but there are Year 2000 concerns on other platforms as well.

6. What is Microsoft's Year 2000 strategy?

Customer request for detailed information
Microsoft's customers have requested that more detailed product information be delivered. We recognize this need and have produced in-depth information about Microsoft technologies. This information gathering, testing and production effort will continue over the coming months. Microsoft has also evaluated the breadth of the Year 2000 problem in order to serve our customers' needs. The year 2000 information delivered by Microsoft will cover both business and technical concerns. To be more specific, our customers have expressed that need three basic things from Microsoft.

Simple definitions
First, Microsoft will classify our products into clear categories of compliance. In the product guide, we have grouped our products into five categories: compliant, compliant with minor issues, not-compliant, testing yet to be completed and will not test.

Next steps to compliance
Second, if a product is stated to be non-compliant, Microsoft will provide information as to how an organization could bring that product into compliance.

Provide components for solutions
Third, as a technology leader, Microsoft will help organizations find solutions to Year 2000 problems. The technologies and services offered by Microsoft and its partners will be components in overall Year 2000 solutions. Microsoft will assist companies with the difficult task of recognizing how disparate technologies can fit together to create a viable solution set.

To better serve our customers, we are responding to the requests listed above. The primary mechanism by which you can find Year 2000 information about our products is by looking at the Year 2000 Resource Center web site (www.microsoft.com/year2000). We are committed to responding to the Year 2000 issue and will continually be adding to the depth of information about our product family.

7. What is Microsoft's statement of compliance?

A Year 2000 Compliant product from Microsoft will not produce errors processing date data in connection with the year change from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000 when used with accurate date data in accordance with its documentation and the recommendations and exceptions set forth in the Microsoft Year 2000 Product Guide, provided all other products (e.g., other software, firmware and hardware) used with it properly exchange date data with the Microsoft product. A Year 2000 Compliant product from Microsoft will recognize the Year 2000 as a leap year.

Disclaimer: The Statement of Compliance refers to the Microsoft product as delivered by Microsoft. The Compliance Statement does not apply to user customizable features or third party add-on features or products, including items such as macros and custom programming and formatting features. The Microsoft Statement of Compliance does not constitute a warranty or extend the terms of any existing warranty. The warranties provided for Microsoft's products, if any, are set forth in the end user license agreements (EULAs) that accompany the products or the terms of the license agreement under which you make use of a Microsoft product. The information available from Microsoft concerning the Year 2000 is provided for the sole purpose of assisting our customers in their planning for the transition to the Year 2000.

8. How will Microsoft deliver information about its products' compliance or non-compliance?

Product Guide
Microsoft will publish a Year 2000 Product Guide. The Product Guide will be the main source for information about Microsoft's Year 2000 effort. This guide will be updated as information becomes available. The first release will include information about the core products and how they handle dates. The information in this guide comes directly from the product teams. The features of the guide have been driven by customer request. With its Product Guide, Microsoft will raise the bar for the quality of information provided by manufacturers to customers.

Quick reference
The products in the guide will be listed in one of five ways:

  1. "Compliant"
    The product meets Microsoft's standards of compliance. (Product may require a prerequisite service pack or patch.)

  2. "Compliant with minor issues"
    The product meets Microsoft's standard of compliance but has some "minor" outstanding issues that have no fix or have a fix on the way but not yet delivered.

  3. "Not compliant"
    The product does not meet Microsoft's standards for compliance.

  4. "Testing yet to be completed"
    The product is still undergoing test.

  5. "Will not be tested"
    The product is not scheduled to be tested for compliance.

The product information will detail the version number, the language of release, the range of dates used for data, the release date of the product, and any prerequisites for compliance. (If a product needs a patch or service pack, it will be listed and hot-linked for download.)

Any time a product is considered for year 2000 issues it must be put in the framework of dependencies. There will also be product and clock dependencies listed for each product. The Microsoft Product Guide will allow the reader to quickly identify that other products are in use to make the solution work.

Other information
The following information will be available for each product:

Easy-to-find information
The Product Guide will be continually updated as product test information becomes available. The user interface of the guide will give the viewer the ability to quickly locate the most current information of interest.

9. How can I get the Microsoft Year 2000 Product Guide?

Browse http://www.microsoft.com/year2000
The web site will provide an easy to use interface to navigate Microsoft's Year 2000 information. Beyond the Product Guide, the Microsoft Year 2000 Resource Center will provide additional information for organizations dealing with the Year 2000 problem.

Year 2000 Tools Reference Guide
There will be a section dedicated to tools vendors. The tool vendors section will be a directory of third-party tools vendors who are providing Year 2000 tools for the Microsoft platform and products. We will include information concerning vendors associated with the PC platform in general. The list of third-party tools vendors will be where organizations and individuals concerned with the Year 2000 issue and their desktop/PC Server environments will find the tools they need to be successful. Each vendor will include a paragraph on their products, contact information, and a technical summary of what they do. Microsoft will not evaluate the tools, nor will we make recommendations to our customers as to which vendors to choose.

Support channel
The final section of the site revolves around our strategic partners and our solution provider channel. The lack of human resources within the legacy environment is putting a huge strain on Year 2000 projects. Today, the labor pool of PC expertise has hardly been touched for Year 2000 work. Microsoft and its partners will be able to provide thousands of technically trained professionals to assist any organization with its Year 2000 concerns.

10. What are the main points of exposure for the PC?

Six layers The PC has 6 main layers of exposure to Year 2000 problems.

  1. Hardware
  2. Operating System
  3. Runtime Library
  4. Applications
  5. Custom Code
  6. Data Interfaces

The most common hardware problem is associated with the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) of the PC. The BIOS is responsible for providing the basic information which the computer needs to boot. It also contains one of the critical clocks used by the PC. The most common hardware problem presented by the Year 2000 has to do with the proper roll of the first two digits of the century portion of the date from "19" to "20." For a BIOS that is affected by this problem, it is possible to properly function once the date is properly set to 2000. The difficulty is in getting it there. The PC real-time clock keeps track of the time and date. The BIOS receives time/date information from the real-time clock in a two-digit century format. The BIOS then adds the necessary bits to store the date in four digits. When the date changes from "99" to "00" but the century bits do not change from "19" to "20," the operating system sees 1900 instead of 2000. Microsoft operating systems do not recognize 1900 and automatically reset the system clock to 1980, our base date.

By understanding what the error result will be, organizations will be able to identify problem machines quickly. Once the broken machines are identified, repair of those systems can begin.

A BIOS fix has been inserted into the newer Microsoft Operating Systems to help alleviate this problem. Windows NT 3.51(sp5), Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0 all have logic built into them that will recognize 1900 as an error case and will automatically compensate by setting the date to 2000. The Microsoft BIOS correction mechanism will only correct the most common BIOS issue described above.

There are other BIOS problems that we do not compensate for. For example, some BIOSs revert back to 1900 every time the system reboots. For all of the year 2000, the Microsoft fix will set the clock to 2000 every boot. When that system reaches 2001 and it resets itself to 1901, Microsoft's fix will not recognize it as a Year 2000 problem and will revert back to the base date of 1980. Other BIOSs have error handling built into them that resets a 1900 date before our operating system begins to interact with the BIOS. If that date is a valid date, such as 1993, then the Microsoft operating system will assume that it is correct. Microsoft recommends that all BIOS platforms be identified and tested to ensure functionality beyond 2000. To see Microsoft's recommendations on how to address this issue, please see Question #14.

Operating systems
It is important for the customer to identify all operating systems being used and obtain appropriate Year 2000 information. The Microsoft Product Guide discusses specific date handling for Microsoft operating systems.

Microsoft operating systems all store and manipulate dates in four-digit formats. Additionally, the system clocks have been designed to recognize the year 2000 as a leap year. Within the operating system, the file systems have been designed to handle dates beyond the year 2000 as well. The File Allocation Table (FAT) 16bit and 32bit versions used by MS-DOS, Windows, Windows 95 and Windows NT recognizes dates up to 2108. The File Allocation Table for the Windows CE operating system recognizes dates up to 2999. The Windows NT File System (NTFS) recognizes dates to 29,601.

Some applications have internal calendars that could miscalculate the leap year; others may force a two-digit date, depending on the manufacturer of that particular application. Microsoft applications that store and manipulate dates do so in four digits. We calculate the year 2000 as a leap year. We do not use any special date codes.

Runtime Library
Runtime Libraries are files that provide functionality to applications. Users do not directly interact with runtime libraries; rather, it is the user's actions with an application that utilize runtimes. There is interdependency between the runtime libraries and applications. By loading a Windows application you are using runtime libraries. It is possible, though, that you can be running an application such as Excel and then add a third-party product that provides yet another runtime library. If that is the case, the dependency roles are reversed. If a runtime library mishandles the date, it doesn't matter if the application, operating system or BIOS were designed properly. The environment is still not ready. Therefore, it is possible for a non-Microsoft runtime library to be used in conjunction with a Microsoft application and for it to break the Microsoft application.

Custom code
Custom code is the largest exposure to Year 2000 problems on any platform. Many organizations have in-house or contracted programmers developing custom applications that better meet business needs. Due to non-standard programming practices throughout the software development community, date handling is not consistent and will need to be examined on an application-by-application basis.

An example problem in custom code would be if someone placed a two-digit date in a text string and then based a calculation on that date. The application would have no way of interpreting those two digits as a date. As a result, the calculation could be wrong. If this were done in VBA to enhance an Office application it could lead to date handling problems. Even though the application (eg: Excel) is handling dates correctly, the VBA custom code could cause it to malfunction.

Data interfaces
An end-to-end view of the organization is the best way to deal with understanding problems with data interfaces. The PC platform in an organization may be just fine for the year 2000. Yet, if there is an interface from that PC to a legacy system that is not working properly with dates, the information placed into the PC environment can cause problems.

The PC is just one step of many in some organizations' information processing. The interfaces between the PC and other platforms must be understood, inventoried, analyzed, fixed, and tested, just like any other portion of the Year 2000 project.

On Microsoft's Year 2000 web site, there is a Tools Guide that will assist customers in finding resources to help with the problems mentioned above. The information available for the listed tools outline what the tool does and how it can help an organization.

11. How are Microsoft products most vulnerable to Year 2000 problems?

Custom code
In any computing environment, custom code represents the largest exposure to year 2000 issues.

Excel spreadsheets
Excel is the most-often customized application released by Microsoft. Furthermore, the use of dates in Excel is very common.

Although Microsoft produces very little hardware, we are dependent upon the health of the PC platform. Please see Question #10 for a description of the BIOS problem.

Data interfaces
The PC is the window to the world's data. If a backend system has a problem and passes bad data (or no data) to the PC, it will initially appear that the PC failed. The result may be a perception that the Microsoft products caused the problem. In reality, the issue lies elsewhere.

12. What are the test criteria that Microsoft uses to validate date handling within its products?

Microsoft understands the critical nature of the Year 2000 issue for organizations. IT professionals responsible for the Year 2000 health of their business need to understand how Microsoft tests its products. Our internal testing program for Microsoft software includes testing for the date handling items described below. Further details concerning testing for our products can be found in the Microsoft Year 2000 Product Guide.

Note: All references to "dates" refer to using either 4 digits or 2 digits for the YEAR portion of the date.

13. Does Microsoft recommend that customers utilize two-digit or four-digit data entry?

Many organizations require that a consistent date format be used throughout their environments. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the same format from organization to organization. The two-digit shortcuts, as well as the custom date formatting features of our products, were designed to accommodate those needs.

Within our applications, the two-digit date logic is applied to meet that application's particular needs. For example, when you use Outlook for scheduling, the date window is different than the date window for birth-dates in the contact manager. The reason for this is that those two functions require different logic to better serve the user's needs.

The other major aspect of two-digit use comes back to the sociological issues surrounding the use of two-digit dates. Programmers are interested in writing applications with user interfaces that better meet the user's needs. If you were creating an insurance form that would have to be entered 250 times by 1000 people daily, the choice of having them key in "1997" versus "97" becomes obvious. First, the users naturally think in two-digits, so it is more natural for them. Second, they are more efficient in the entry process. Finally, the use of just two-digits uses less storage on the backend system.

Microsoft recommends the use of four-digit dates for date input where possible. This will lead to the highest level of accuracy in date data calculations.

14. What are Microsoft's recommendations for working with the Year 2000 on a PC?

End-to-end examination of computing environment
Microsoft recommends that every organization looking into the impact of the year 2000 take an end-to-end look at their environments. "End-to-end" means understanding how data enters an environment (user input, electronic transfer, etc.), how it is manipulated, stored, calculated, sorted, sequenced, etc. within the environment, what systems are involved with the handling of that data, and finally, how the data leaves that environment (user interface, printed hard copy, electronic data interface, etc.). "End-to-end" encompasses both hardware and software. Microsoft technologies are just one piece of most environments.

Use a test-bed
We recommend that customers DO NOT test year 2000 issues on production PCs. There are many date-related functions on the average desktop of which people may not be aware. Arbitrarily setting the clock ahead can have some unforeseen results. For example, auto archiving on scheduling programs, automated backup systems, special licensing timeouts on vertical applications, and demonstration applications can all be adversely affected by the Year 2000 problem.

Use a MS-DOS boot disk to check the BIOS and system clock
Microsoft advocates the use of a MS-DOS boot disk to check the system for clock issues. This will separate the day-to-day functionality of the system from the date testing. After the user sets the clock ahead for testing, make sure to reboot the machine to the boot disk and set the clock back to the right time.

Inspect custom code
In any computing environment, custom code represents the largest exposure to year 2000 issues. We advocate that an experienced programmer evaluate any custom code in your information systems. To locate third-party products that can assist in the inspection of custom code, please see the Microsoft Year 2000 Resource Center Tools Guide at http://www.microsoft.com/year2000.

Use management tools where possible for inventory and distribution of fixes
If your PCs are on a network and you have a network management tool such as Microsoft Systems Management Server, you can use the inventory and analysis features of the tool to understand what is in your environment. Once you have this information, you can begin the process of organizing the work needing to be done. Many management tools also offer the capability of distributing software. This mechanism can be employed to distribute patches and fixes, as needed.

15. What are Microsoft's recommendations for working with the PC BIOS issue?

Take inventory of your environment
Due to the number of variations of potential BIOS problems, it is crucial that you take inventory of your environment and understand how many versions and makes of BIOS you are dealing with. Unfortunately, it is possible that within a single purchase order your computer supplier delivered machines with differing versions of BIOSs. This means that your best bet is to verify each machine.

It is highly recommended that you get in contact with your system supplier and the BIOS manufacturer to understand the scope of this problem. If you have a BIOS that has a different kind of Year 2000 problem, you will likely need to contact the BIOS manufacturer.

Manually set date
If a desktop has the most common BIOS problem, and is running an operating system that does not automatically fix this problem, it is possible to manually set the date once and have the system work properly from that point forward. In fact, this will be the most common fix for the home user. For many large organizations where it is too time-consuming to touch every desktop, IS departments will disseminate to the end users the instructions necessary to manually set the system clock once after the year 2000. They will prepare their helpdesks for the flood of calls and will rely on their contingency planing of monitoring critical data feeds to ensure that all desktops have made the move properly.

Make use of Microsoft programmatic solutions
Windows NT 3.51 service pack 5, Windows NT 4.0, Windows NT 5.0, and Windows 98 have a BIOS fix for the most common problem. (See Question #10)

Make use of third-party programmatic solutions
Many companies produce products to assist in dealing with the BIOS problem. Microsoft provides a list of BIOS fix vendors in the Tools Guide located at http://www.microsoft.com/year2000.

Plan contingencies
Appropriate contingency planning for this problem will require the monitoring of critical data feeds. In many cases, applications will stamp a form or a transaction with the current system date. This will allow for monitoring on the back-end for BIOS failure dates (See Question #10) which will tell you that there are PCs which have not made the switch properly.

16. Does Microsoft have any process recommendations for organizations dealing with the Year 2000 problem?

Yes. The year 2000 problem is not only a technical problem, it is important to remember that it is also a business process problem that has a very human side to it.

Make use of four-digit dates
One of the best things an organization can do today is to implement processes that make use of four-digit dates wherever possible. This will take away any confusion for calculations in the future. Any new spreadsheet being created, any new database work, etc., should all be done in full four-digit format. It is also possible for new standardized forms to make use of data validations so that people can not use two-digit dates.

Train staff
By preparing your IT staff and helpdesk/customer support people to recognize date-related problems, your organization will be more nimble in responding to Year 2000 issues. This should be done today; do not wait until the year 2000 for implementation.

Replace systems
Microsoft realizes that replacing systems is easier said than done. It is often a painful decision to make. Replacement will, however, be one of the most commonly-used changes in business process and technology to fix this problem. Microsoft advocates the use of a Modified Rapid Replacement Strategy. (See Question #20) Microsoft's current and future technologies can be an important component in an organization's overall Year 2000 solution set.

17. What are the driving business issues for Year 2000 decision-making?

Decision-making for the Year 2000 will be driven by business rather than technical issues. Microsoft recognizes the pressures being placed upon IT professionals by the Year 2000. Solutions to Year 2000 problems will be founded in part upon the factors discussed below.

Resources and time
The Year 2000 imposes a different set of priorities on IS than traditional projects do. Resources and time are the primary issues that will be factored into technical and business decisions for the year 2000.

The IT industry in general is experiencing a shortage of trained personnel and the Year 2000 is exacerbating this problem. In the mainframe world, COBOL programmers are getting to be more and more difficult to find and their salaries are increasing. For other legacy technology environments there are similar shortages of capable staffing. The PC environment has the largest community of knowledgeable personnel. Furthermore, they have been largely unused for Year 2000 work as most enterprises have been focused on central IT issues.

Hardware procurement
Today there is high demand for replacement and test platform hardware in the legacy markets. Organizations are finding it difficult to procure what they need in order to complete the work on time. The PC environment will be able to assist on this front due to the proliferation of manufacturers and service vendors.

Supply chain
For executives, one of the most critical issues to deal with is the supply chain. The best way to explain this issue is to think about a manufacturing company. Most manufacturers only carry enough inventory to sustain production for a few weeks at most. If they lose just one key supplier and have no way to compensate for this loss, production can be jeopardized. So, if a large manufacturer identified 300 key suppliers, it would then have to think about the supply chain for each of those 300 suppliers. If there were 3-5 key suppliers for each of the manufacturer's key suppliers, the manufacturer must now worry about the Year 2000 health of 900 to 1500 companies. Microsoft recognizes the importance of the supply chain issue. Our products can provide a "bridging" technology to maintain communications with suppliers through the year 2000. These technology solutions are going to be dependent upon the individual interface needs.

The financial impact of the Year 2000 problem can be significant without appropriate planning. Corporations are faced with potentially large outlays of capital in order to prepare their environments for the change of the millennium. As IT budgets grow to meet the needs of the Year 2000 projects, the rest of the organization will have to compensate for the strain created by unplanned expenditures by IT.

Contingency planning
"Contingency planning" for the year 2000 should be undertaken by everyone. There are two elements to contingency planning to consider. The first is contingency for failure. If a system, or group of systems fail due to the Year 2000, there should be a logical progression of reactive activities that IT can pursue to compensate for that failure. The second is the contingency for success. If a key competitor or group of competitors fail because of this issue then it is possible that there will be an excessive amount of business in a very short period of time. This can be as dangerous for an organization as having too little business.

Among the options to be examined as a contingency is the concept of "manual" processes. Manual processes can compensate for the loss of functionality of a system either through forced retirement or outright failure of the system. In today's world, a "manual" process can be equated with a PC-based process. An example of a manual process would be if a company filled an auditorium with people sitting in front of stand-alone PCs and a printer to process daily transactions. Microsoft technologies can play a critical role in successful contingency plans for the Year 2000.


Digital Nervous System
The key component to any successful organization for the Year 2000 will be a healthy Digital Nervous System. The Digital Nervous System concept is simply the idea that an organization can be thought of as a body. The Information Technology infrastructure of that organization functions as the body's nervous system. A healthy Digital Nervous System will enable you to respond efficiently to changes in your environment due to the Year 2000. Microsoft technologies, services and partners combine to create the basis for a healthy Digital Nervous System that can address both the technical and business issues at hand.

18. What steps should organizations take when dealing with the Year 2000 problem?

1)   Inventory and Analysis
Before considering fix, replace and/or retire solutions, we recommend that the first step in any year 2000 valuation be a complete inventory and analysis of information technology assets on an end-to-end basis.

2)   Fix and/or replace

3)   Retirement
Retirement will become the most commonly used option as time and human resources run short. Organizations may be forced to retire systems that they deem critical while remediating others in order to survive.

19. What will the effects of a shortage of time and resources do to the decision-making process?

Triage becomes essential
Year 2000 project managers should identify the applications and systems within their organizations on an end-to-end basis to determine where their maximum exposure lies. They will then have to perform triage on those applications and systems to determine which must be saved, which would be nice to save, and which are not necessary to save. Applications and systems may be categorized in the following classes:

Systems that are mission-critical but carry risks different from traditional Information Technology. (Example: control systems for manufacturing equipment, embedded systems)

Each system should be analyzed to determine the amount of resources and time it will require. As the timeline shortens, hard decisions will have to be made and class 4 and 5 systems will be retired out-of-hand. When the need for retirement starts to hit level 3 of the triage, organizations are faced with the potential for significant disruption of business. It is at this point that Microsoft technologies can provide assistance through the use of a Modified Rapid Replacement strategy. The application of this strategy is not a matter of re-inventing the organization, it is simply a method of applying technology to the business need created by the Year 2000.

20. How can Microsoft help this process?

Modified Rapid Replacement Strategy
Our technologies, services, and partners can be used in combination to implement a Modified Rapid Replacement Strategy. This strategy is built around the concept of overcoming scarce time and resources by rethinking the business processes that are affected by the Year 2000 and designing rapidly-deployed, modified replacements where possible.

21. What is the Modified Rapid Replacement Strategy?

Identifying and replacing critical systems
Modified rapid replacement is the idea that it is not necessary to get a 1:1 feature/function replacement ratio when replacing a system. In the context of the Year 2000, the only thing that matters is "Did you get done on time?" If you look at a business application and recognize that it will either be replaced or retired due to time and resource restrictions, the first step that needs to be taken is an understanding of the business process that drives that application. If the application provides 24 great features, but only six of them are critical to its functionality, replace those six and move on to the next part of the overall project. The most cost effective objective is to create solutions to save those critical systems prior to the very real deadline.

Familiar technology
The advantage to the Microsoft strategy of Modified Rapid Replacement is that it uses existing investments in knowledge of Microsoft technologies as well as the products that are already in use. Success with the Microsoft solution set will not come from having to learn an entirely new set of technologies.

For example, a business's need for a uniform email system within an environment may be crucial. In order to meet the Year 2000 deadline, though, perhaps the organization deploys the Exchange 5.5 infrastructure with servers only. They use browsers as the email client throughout the enterprise. Is this the optimal way to use Exchange? No, but it will get the organization through the year 2000 and position it strategically for growth in the years that follow.

Another example involves an organization with a report-writing engine on a legacy platform affected by the Year 2000. The organization is faced with the decision of dedicating resources to fixing that component or retiring it. (Ideally they would fix, but if they are already behind on the core, mission-critical applications, those legacy resources will have to be dedicated to that core portion of the project.) Instead of retiring the report writer, the organization creates a server-side ActiveX control using internal or third-party resources to handle the report-writing component. They deploy it to the desktop for any type of browser. It may be that this replacement only does 15 of the 75 reports that the original one could do, but those 15 are the critical ones.


Links to the original Source (at Microsoft web site at http://www.microsoft.com)

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