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Y2K work pays off with uneventful changeover

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MIT's extensive preparations in advance of New Year's Eve paid off with a quiet evening for members of the Y2KTeam, who spent the turn of the year in Building W91 and elsewhere around campus.

Preparedness also produced more benefits than problems throughout the Institute community, based on reports made at a post-Y2K meeting held last Thursday.

"The evening went by just like we hoped -- a smooth transition thanks to all the detailed and carefully conceived work of everyone involved," said President Charles M. Vest at a January 6 meeting. "I personally appreciated it very much and know that this gratitude is shared widely across the campus."

Gayle C. Willman of Information Systems looked back to New Year's Eve with affection and respect for her Y2K teammates and members of MIT's Y2K Partners group.

"The Y2K Team is an energetic and hard-working group of people: Rocklyn Clarke, Deb Bowser, Ray Cheng, Mike Drooker, Karen Fortoul and Stephanie Mondesire," Ms. Willman said. "We are fortunate to have the sponsorship of Bob Ferrara and Theresa Regan, who actively participated in our efforts.

"Over the past year and a half, we have spent countless hours communicating, training, researching and monitoring MIT's Y2K efforts. In the community, the commitment and hard work of many dozens of people resulted in the uneventful transition. It's important to say, for many people in the MIT community, the Y2K preparations added new deadlines to an already-crowded schedule. I'd like to express special gratitude to all of the Y2K Partners and others for their efforts," she said.

"This has been a challenging project and a very significant learning experience for us," said Mr. Clarke, leader of the Y2K Team. "As we enjoyed 'business as usual' on January 4, we were glad to have been a part of the Institute's Y2K preparations and even more glad about the outcome."

MIT has been addressing Y2K-related issues for about three years. Karen Fortoul led the initial Y2K effort, to assess the potential impact of Y2K on MIT. In 1998, the current Year 2000 Team was formed.

The Y2K team approached the Year 2000 transition as an institutional issue rather than just a technological issue, with focus on MIT's infrastructure, applications and data, workplace safety, internal and external communications, and external dependencies.

"The Y2K problem presents risks that could negatively affect MIT in many different ways. The primary goal of the team's work, undertaken with the cooperation of the MIT community, is to minimize those risks," the team wrote in its initial statement.

In 1999, the Y2K Business Continuity Management Team, led by Gerald Isaacson, was appointed to review the Institute's contingency plans and to handle the logistics for the New Year's weekend.

In the January 6 meeting, Ms. Willman asked the 25 workshop participants to comment on the impact, potential further challenges and any benefits of Y2K preparations.

Those present included representatives from the Y2K Team, the BCMT, Facilities, Payroll, Benefits, the Controller's Accounting Office, and others from academic areas and laboratories.

Comments on the general impact of MIT's Y2K preparations were positive, even enthusiastic, and conversation in the meeting included Y2K jokes such as, "Did you hear the one about the $79,000 library fine?" "Can you imagine the face on the person who gets the parking bill for two centuries' worth of parking?"

"The press says all that work was wasted. What do you think?" Ms. Willman asked the group. Most found a silver lining in the frustrations and pressure of working, Institute-wide, on a "hard deadline," they said. Citing equipment inventory alone as a benefit of the preparations, participants also noted that:
People learned more about their systems
Systems were audited and streamlined
Y2K inspired a new sense of community purpose and proved the whole Institute could work together to achieve a common goal -- on a "rock solid" deadline
BCMT is now "better geared for anything they'll have to do"
Improved relations among different Institute groups
More than 2,000 new "green cards" are in place, achieving a Safety Office goal
Maintenance and insurance agreements have been thoroughly reviewed

"Now that we are securely into the year 2000 and before the reality of what has been accomplished fades too much, I wished to take a moment to say 'thanks' and 'great job' to the thousands of MIT folks who contributed to such a clean transition from 1999 to 2000 for all of us," wrote William F. Huxley, manager of data processing in the Controller's Accounting Office, in a memo to the MIT community.

"Congratulations one and all, from those who dedicated years to this issue to those who accomplished the more isolated tasks they needed to and to all those who simply remained calm."

Mr. Huxley also suggested that members of the MIT community give little credence to the "Monday morning quarterbacks who have surfaced in great numbers now that the critical time has passed. Take their presence as testimony to how well the job was accomplished," he said.

Another IAP session, "Reflections of the Y2K Event," will be held on January 26 in Rm 10-250. For more information, e-mail

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 12, 2000.

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