Action 2000 optimism criticised

Flawed compliance protocol breeds complacency, say experts

Millennium bug observers have taken issue with Action 2000 over its assertions Wednesday that all UK essential services will run as normal come the year 2000.

As Action 2000 confidently predicted business as usual, critics accused the organisation of using a flawed protocol to test millennium compliance.

Under Action 2000's traffic light system almost every essential service is now coded blue, meaing no material risk of disruption as a result of the bug. Peter Barnes, director of business continuity association Survive believes the system is fundamentally flawed and encouraging dangerous complacency among firms. "Companies believe that once they have got the blue light they can relax and that is far from the truth. Momentum must be maintained up to the last minute," he said.

Barnes believes the greatest problem facing local authorities is poor contingency planning in the event of an infrastructure failure. Barnes has tested the contingency plans of a number of local authorities and found that "they wouldn't work because they have been devised in isolation from the outside world". If there is an unforeseen power or communication failure, local government contingency plans will fall down and public services will be under threat," Barnes predicted.

Taskforce 2000 boss Robin Guenier agrees the traffic light system is creating a false picture of bug readiness. "The blue traffic light is an inadequate measure. It is carefully worded in the report not to say that people have actually finished the job," he said. He believes businesses do not believe Action 2000 when they say essential services will be bug free. "We asked the top 1000 companies in the UK what their greatest concern was and they said it was the possibility of infrastructure failure. There is a lack of belief among senior business people that what they are being told is true," he said.

The latest results show a dramatically different picture to those in July. Then eight major financial institutions and six local authorities were at "severe risk" of bug disruption.

Action 2000's chairman Don Cruickshank, believes the dramatic change is down to hard work in the last three months. "A tremendous amount of work has been carried out since we last reported in July and the results reflect this. I am confident that the UK will suffer no material disruption due to the millennium bug," he said.

It is not all rosy in Action 2000's garden though. Seven medium impact financial firms have yet to achieve blue status as well as four local authorities in Northern Ireland, York Gas and transport services in Manchester, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Cruickshank promises all will be blue by early November. "The very few organisations yet to finish are under the most intense scrutiny and will not be at risk," he said.

Take me to the Year 2000 Special.