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April 2012

Remember Y2K…. Well what about Y3K?

Ed Wrazen 2010VP Product Marketing  By Ed Wrazen, Vice President, Product Marketing, Harte-Hanks Trillium Software

The Year 2000 problem (also known as the Y2K problem, the Millennium bug, the Y2K bug, or simply Y2K) refers to a technology issue made famous at the turn of the millennium, when we thought our computer programs and systems would fail because they hadn’t been correctly programmed to process dates beyond 31 December 1999.  Remember?

Date comparison programs would process 00 as if it was the year 1900 not 2000, producing incorrect results.  There was considerable concern that major systems would fail. Catastrophes were forecast by doomsayers – planes would fall out the sky, traffic light systems would fail causing chaos, ATMs would not pay up.  Government task forces were established and businesses spent millions of dollars checking and amending their systems to make the changes necessary. But, nothing bad ended up happening.
So, I was taken aback when a colleague recently talked about a Y3K issue?  “Y3K, you’re kidding. Will the world still exist in Y3K?" 

In fact, Y3K is a legitimate and important issue for one business; a utility company in Europe, that Y3Kmaintains a network of geographically dispersed physical assets. These assets include buildings, plants, equipment, supplies, materials and spares. The data describing these assets is used for maintenance, procurement, regulatory compliance and other critical business processes.  As it is frequently updated by engineering and maintenance teams, it’s profiled and analysed regularly to assure its quality.  

For materials and “spare parts,” one of the data attributes stored is the expected lifespan (in years) of the asset. It so happens that some these assets have a lifespan expectancy of 1000 years.  So, the company’s applications and data had to support end-of-life dates occurring in the years 3010, 3011 and 3012. Whether the asset lasted 1 year or 1000 years, the process was the same – to profile and validate dates and associated business rules for all physical assets.

This led me to consider whether there are other businesses out there that have a potential Y3K issue? Will their applications and data quality solutions support Y3K dates? Should they be assessing the health of their data and data quality solutions now…as opposed to waiting for the year 3000?

Of course, this story is told tongue and cheek at some level, but, in all seriousness, there are businesses, like this utility, that could experience data management problems if they don’t data address issues now. How does your business handle lifespan dates of assets and products? Will the failure of these assets negatively impact your company’s revenue or reputation because data issues are not taken care of? Do you need to make changes now?

Oh, by the way, in providing support for Y3K dates and beyond, we conducted a simple test and found out that October 13th, 3010 is a Saturday, in case anyone is interested!