UK's top firms misjudge Millennium work

A quarter of Britain's top 100-listed companies have misjudged their Millennium readiness, according to US company Unisys.

The computer systems and services group was commissioned to act as a "second pair of eyes" to scrutinize in-house bug projects. The company ran health checks on around thirty large organisations in the financial and commercial sector and found problems in all but one. Unisys declined to list any of the companies involved, however.

Worringly, the problems ranged from minor faults to serious flaws that threaten mission-critical systems. David Parmenter, Year 2000 programme manager for Unisys, explained how organisations might have overlooked flaws in the their systems: "Often the problem is related to how dates are used in the system. A millennium compliant date may be moved to a different field to be used in a calculation, and that calculation may not be done in a Year 2000 [compliant] way," he said. The implications for this are manyfold. "It could just be a case of how the date appears on a report or it could be more serious and cause the system to fail," Parmenter said.

The findings contradict the claims of Action 2000 who reported on Monday that 90 percent of large organisations were getting to grips with the bug problem. But Parmenter believes there may be "a widespread problem" with systems that were previously thought to be compliant. "Our brief was to look at mission critical systems which are the life-blood of an organisation. For problems to be revealed here is very worrying," he said.

It is estimated that tens of millions of pounds are being spent by the country's largest firms to deal with the millennium bug. Observers fear that the revelation that business' anti-bug efforts and resources have been partially wasted is likely to further burden to businesses struggling to tackle the date-glitch.

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