The University Record, April 22, 1998

The year 2000 and your computer: 'Things are going to happen'

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles on the Year 2000 computer problem and how it is being addressed at the U-M.

By Kerry Colligan

You'd have to be crawling around under a rock to miss the latest media blitz known as the millennium bug. Everybody, from techno-geek to techno-phobe, has heard something. And, if folks like Gloria Thiele have anything to say about it, what you've heard isn't enough.

"Currently, the University community does not understand the potential for problems," says Thiele, product area manager for the Information Technology Division and project coordinator for the year 2000 problem.

The key here, she says, is potential. The University is "in a very good position." Ask around. Few major problems have been reported to Thiele's group. "The millennium bug has not, so far, been an issue for us," says M-Pathways Communications Coordinator Gretchen Weir. "We don't have any horror stories."

Neither does plant operations. "We have computers that run the fan systems, the fire alarms and those kinds of things," says Paul Spradlin, interim associate vice president for business operations. "The feedback I'm getting now is that 'Y2K' is well under control."

And the media blitz?

As Thiele says, the potential for problems is daunting. Monique Washington, director of graduate admissions, reported problems with a database scheduled to be replaced by M-Pathways later this year.

On Jan. 2, Washington and her staff were unable to enter applications into a database because the automatic purge date of the entries was "2000." ITD consultants were able to fix the problem, but lost productivity and the realization that "Y2K" has tremendous scope were lessons not lost, Washington says.

"What's important is for people to start thinking ahead," she says. "Think about what kind of processes you do have. Don't assume that everybody is thinking about it."

Washington is right. Everybody is not thinking about it. At a national conference in December, three-quarters of the participants in the "Year 2000" seminar had dealt with the central administrative systems at their respective universities, Thiele says. For the one-quarter who had not, she adds, "they weren't doing anything."

That is the message Thiele's group is trying to get out: Do something. "Awareness and real understanding are critical," she says. "Things are just going to happen. If you don't know if your systems are 'Y2K' compatible, be wary."