The Last Stand: Year 2000 Contingency Planning

Article excerpt

In a recent poll conducted by InformationWeek, 77 percent of the firms surveyed had initiated plans to keep their business running in the event of year 2000 failures. And with only 34 percent expecting critical and non-critical projects to be completed by December 31, 1999, those plans will be vital.

Creating a contingency plan is like putting together a family trip, where considerations are given to obtaining an accurate map and route; having the car tuned up and the tires checked; packing a cell phone and emergency equipment; and stocking up on food and drink. Preparing for possible year 2000 failures is much the same, only the stakes are much, much higher.

Contingency planning is your last line of defense against any problem that has not been perceived or repaired. Preparations should have started months ago; if your company has not yet begun, there is a lot to do.

Contingency planning consists of: identifying the business processes that have the greatest impact on your organization; developing alternatives or workarounds for each with unit managers, facility managers and business operation leaders; and establishing work plans and responsibility for the response, preparation and resumption phases.

Contingency planning for the year 2000, however, is slightly different because the date and potential outcome are somewhat known. The disaster recovery plan already part of your business continuity program may be insufficient to manage or adjust for year 2000 failure.

Problems

Failures could come from any source, including your suppliers and third party vendors, such as utilities and banks. Key clients and customers could also have system failures. If their systems do not respond, your company may not be able to ship them products, provide them with services or collect payment. Failures could also come from within your own systems, such as payroll processing, which may be managed by outside vendors.

As with all contingency plans, assumptions must be made. For instance, if you expect that banks and major utilities and communication networks will be operating, more effort can be spent on internal response strategies. But you cannot make assumptions about all external impacts. There could be failures at local utilities and phones systems or at key suppliers to your critical vendors.

Creating a Plan

What exactly are you trying to maintain within the organization? If continuity is your ultimate goal, do you want to preserve the organization's cash flow, market share, brand name? …