Tech Industry

Y2K's rear guard

In fighting the war against the Year 2000 problem, time is extremely short, the alarm needs to be sounded, and all resources must be tapped--even the elderly.

Comparing the Year 2000 technology problem to a world war, the head of a California-based technology consulting firm said time is extremely short, the alarm needs to be sounded, and to meet the challenge all resources need to be tapped--even the elderly.

The consultant, Bill Payson, should know all about readying for a war. The 74-year-old former World War II Marine is the chief executive officer of Senior Staff 2000, the company managing the largest database in the United States of formerly retired and semiretired professionals qualified in COBOL and legacy system programming. Senior Staff 2000 aims to take on what Payson considers the biggest technology management problem ever faced by the industry.

"I call it the Pearl Harbor problem," Payson said. "There is not enough --Bill Payson, Senior Staff 2000 time. There are not enough people. It's now the time to call out the reserves and see what needs to be done."

There is plenty to be done. Payson has seen big software companies and major technology consulting firms fail to give attention to smaller companies that are struggling with tiny budgets, a small staff, and no IT personnel.

Senior Staff 2000 is an information data bank, not an employment agency or placement firm. The Campbell, California-based company provides, free of charge, contacts sorted by both specialty and skill level. And for a modest fee, the company will provide employers with summaries or detailed profiles of each candidate's self-rated skills and experience.

Payson sees his service as providing a solution to the manpower shortage in fighting the Y2K problem, which he currently estimates at 300,000 IT job vacancies. Other independent estimates pin that figure at more than 340,000.

According to a survey conducted by his company, Payson said there are approximately 200,000 retired "techies" out there. One-third are looking to work for money, and another two-thirds, or 67 percent, are looking to work for nonfinancial reasons.

The newest, and what he thinks is the largest, problem facing small businesses dealing with the millennium bug is the bug's impact on the PC and the lack of consulting firms, because many of these companies lack enough money in their budgets to hire a huge consulting firm.

That's the impetus behind PC Data Check, a new network Payson launched earlier this month, composed of retired and semiretired high-tech professionals who will help small businesses cope with the Y2K problem and its impact on their PCs.

"Millions of small businesses that rely on PCs for their information services are at risk in connection with Y2K," Payson said. "It's a complicated issue. With mainframes it's mainly a programming problem. With PCs, it's a hardware problem, the BIOS."

Payson's company has partnered with Tally Systems, a Y2K tools developer, so the vintage Back to Year 2000 Index Page Y2K techies can crush Y2K bugs plaguing PCs with Tally's Centennial 2000 BIOS testing and fixing package.

As for rallying his workforce of senior bug-busters, Payson relies on the Web.

"All of are recruiting on the Internet. It's the only way we can roll all of this out fast enough," he said.

Payson considers the millennium bug a major challenge for the nation and its economy, likening it to war.

"I was in World War II. When there is a major emergency, you drop everything, cut the red tape and bureaucracy, and call in the reserves."  

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