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 October 2, 1998 Volume 6, Number 3

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Presidential task force and project team to address 'millennium bug' problems

TF chair Tony Whitworth and vice-chair Bob Kavanagh with Y2K-related literature. Finding a middle course between a 'make work' project and solving pressing Y2K problems.

Acknowledging that, to one degree or another, 'millennium bug' disruptions are inevitable on campus, the University has formulated a plan to address the problem.

It has struck a Year 2000 Presidential Task Force (TF) to gather relevant data and, with the help of a five-person Project Team, to determine priorities for problems to be addressed. Y2K issues will be regularly reported to the Board of Governors through its Audit Committee.*

Dr. Tony Whitworth is chairing - with Dr. Bob Kavanagh vice-chairing - the TF, whose 21-month budget (i.e., to June 30, 2000) has tentatively been set at $260,000, 75% of which is to cover the time load of those assigned to the Y2K problem. One of the TF's first tasks is to determine what additional resources, if any, will be required to avoid serious Y2K problems.

Bob Eaton, head of Applications and Data Management, Computing Services, is one of the Team members and has been appointed as full-time Year 2000 project manager, effective immediately.

As coordinator of all the Year 2000-related efforts on campus, Eaton will plan timelines, oversee the communication of relevant information, compile and present pertinent data to the TF, communicate with external agencies, prepare reports, etc.

The other members of the Project Team are as follows:

  • Al Novakowski, director of Audit Services, will, as Board liaison, assess reports from the TF and be the Team's direct liaison with the Board's Audit Committee;

  • Nowell Seaman, manager, Insurance Services, will, as risk manager, provide the TF with information concerning the risk to the University from internal or external non-compliance and assess risks to the University associated with problems identified by TF members;

  • Michael McGillivray, of Audit Services, will, as Y2K technical advisor, develop a database of problems, risks, and solutions and assist in coordinating the search for, and deployment of, technical tools and solutions; and

  • Heather Magotiaux, director of the Office of Communications, will, as communications manager, assist in the preparation of a communications plan for the Project and in the coordination of all aspects of internal and external communications concerning it.

Kavanagh says the TF's basic task is to ensure that the University experience as few consequences as possible of date-sensitive equipment or processes when the millennium arrives.

"The chief goal is to head off negative impacts the Y2K problem may present, so that we can avoid financial losses, interruptions to programs or services, health and safety risks, or operational inconvenience to our students, faculty, and staff."

The key problem, Kavanagh says, is relative:

"On one hand, we know that we'll have some Year 2000 problems that will need to be solved. On the other hand, we want to avoid turning this into a major 'make work' project and waste a lot of time addressing things that won't be serious or will simply go away in time."

He says the responses to a June 22, 1998, memo requesting information on Y2K problems on campus indicate eight areas:

  • Physical plant operations and utility suppliers (covering the basics of utilities);

  • Health, safety, and security factors;

  • Major institutional computer applications;

  • External suppliers of products and services;

  • College- or unit-based computer applications;

  • Research equipment and applications;

  • Corporate entities (such as VIDO, POS Plant, PBI) that are affiliated with, or work with, the University; and ("last but not least," Kavanagh says)

  • Desktop computers.

Commenting on the situation facing the University campus with 15 months to zero-hour - midnight, January 1, 2000 - Kavanagh says the TF emphasizes that the time to address the Y2K problem is now.

"We urge all employees to consider their work areas immediately. Discovering problems later will be more costly than doing so now, when lower cost alternatives may be possible."

He notes, too, that the TF will not, cannot, solve all units' problems.

"The TF will assist where possible, but the greater onus is on the respective units to examine their equipment and processes for potential problems. They usually won't find serious problems. But if and when they do, it's such problems that should be brought to the attention of the Task Force."

The Project Team has been put in place to provide direct operational support to the Task Force. The Team will also assist in the sharing of information on common problems and solutions across campus.

Additionally, the TF has established the following e-mail address, to which members of the University may put questions or make comments or suggestions: Year2000@usask.ca

Finally, the Project Team will create and maintain a web site by which faculty and staff can keep current on this problem and find information on solutions to common problems.

See related articles

The Year 2000 Project Team (l. to r.): Al Novakoski, Nowell Seaman, Bob Eaton, Michael MacGillivray, and Heather Magotiaux. The time to begin addressing the Year 2000 problem is now.

* The Audit Committee members include Hal Wyatt, Professors Bob Hickie and Jack Vicq, and resource persons Tony Whitworth, vice-president (finance and administration); Laura Kennedy, assistant vice-president (financial services) and controller; and Al Novakowski, director of Audit Services.

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