WMU News

Wright heads Y2K response initiative

March 29, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- President Elson S. Floyd has named Dr. Richard A. Wright, interim vice president for information technology, to coordinate the University's response to the Year 2000 computer problem and set up a $1 million contingency budget in support of the project.

"With fewer than 10 months remaining until the year 2000, achieving Y2K compliance must be among the highest priorities of the University," Floyd said in a letter to administrators. "Functions critical to the mission of the University must receive our undivided attention."

The term Y2K refers to the need for computers and other electronic systems to be ready to process the four digits in the year 2000 without interpreting them as the year 1900. Many computer systems were programmed to handle only the last two digits of the year and thus can make calculation errors.

"Without correction, critical University processes cannot function properly, if at all," says Wright, who is being assisted by Jan Van Der Kley, assistant vice president for finance. Critical processes include student financial aid, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, student records and registration, communication systems and health and safety areas of the physical plant.

"Fortunately, much work already has been done," Wright says. "But a great deal of work remains to be done." Extensive communications efforts are expected to begin in April, including a special issue of Interconnect, the newsletter of the Office of Instructional Technology's computing group.

Wright has identified several compliance teams to manage the Y2K project. They include systems remediation and testing; risk management and contingency planning; quality assurance; legal oversight; corporate communications; and record keeping.

"Using our service to student as a focus, we've identified a great many issues and put them in a priority order," he told the Faculty Senate March 11. "Then we can go after them one right after the other so that by the time 2000 comes, we'll be in good shape."

Wright explained that the Y2K project is being undertaken in stages, which included an inventory of processes; testing and remediation; and end-to-end testing, in which an entire operation, such as issuing student financial aid checks, is tested from start to finish.

The University already has had what Wright called a "gap analysis," which, he said, is a standard practice and was conducted by a consultant, Deloitte & Touche. "This helped us look at what we've done so far, measure our work against industry standards and determine where we need to focus our efforts," he said.

The $1 million contingency budget is to be used for what the president called "big ticket items." Smaller items, such as the replacement of PCs or a new version of Microsoft EXCEL, are to be covered by departmental budgets. Requests for funds from the Y2K budget must go through the appropriate vice president.

More information about the Y2K initiative may be found at <www.wmich.edu/ais/y2k>

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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