Sysmod's PraxIS

Managing reality in Information Systems - Strategies for Success

Systems Modelling Ltd. Issue Jan 2001

http://www.sysmod.com

IN THIS ISSUE

Welcome

Farewell Y2K

21 resolutions for 2001
"Managing Change & Technology" newsletter 

Euro features

Greece joins EMU
EU Enlargement
EMUbusiness newsletter

Information Security

Self protection 101

E-Business

Dot-com deaths
Web site usability reviews
Free ebusiness video for Irish businesses

Software Quality Links

Tech stuff - essential utilities

On the lighter side

33 Web links in this newsletter

About this newsletter, Feedback, and Archives

Disclaimer

Subscribe and Unsubscribe information


WELCOME

Welcome to PraxIS - we wish all our readers a happy and prosperous 2001!

This month, we look back at Y2K and forward to the introduction of euro notes and coins. This year is the last chance for companies to make the euro changeover, so we remind you of our consultancy services in euro training [29], software certification [30], and the book+CD on the euro conversion [31], to help you succeed! 

We appreciate any feedback or suggestions for improvement. If you have received this newsletter from anybody else, we urge you to sign up for your personal copy at http://www.sysmod.com  - it's free!

To help readability, hyperlinks in the text are given in full URL format at the end. Let me know if this does not work for you. 

Patrick O'Beirne, Editor


Farewell Y2K

My article "Postmortem on the Y2K project" [1] is on our web site as a tribute to all those who worked so hard at that time. Those who learned best practice will continue to benefit from it. Those who did not apparently include the German train producers who said "We didn't think of trying out the date 31/12/00''. (New York Times [33]) None of Norway's national railroad company's new 16 airport express trains or 13 high-speed, long-distance Signatur trains would start early in the morning of Dec. 31. Rather than a Y2K bug, this was actually a leap year bug similar to the one that brought down the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter plant in 1996. 

Even as late as October 2000, Microsoft was publishing fixes; for example, see their technical note Q256904 [2], where Word 97 did not correctly handle the leap year. The day name in a Date and Time Field is incorrect after Feb 29.

You may be wondering what happened to Peter de Jager, the indefatigable preacher on prevention rather than cure, a message which worked so well there is still litigation between companies and their insurers [3] as to who should pay for the costs of their Y2K projects. You can catch up with his thinking on change management with his monthly newsletter. 'Managing Change & Technology' is a Free 16 page Adobe Acrobat Newsletter distributed each month via e-mail as a service of De Jager & Co. Ltd. It is focused on the issues surrounding the management of Change. The objective of the Newsletter is to strip away some of the Change Myths we operate under and replace them with usable strategies and insights. The topic is addressed in a readable, light manner suitable for both management and staff and from time to time even dares to use humour to illustrate a point. Contact them either via the website and archives [4] or via e-mail at Managechange(at)technobility(dot)com 

21 Resolutions For 2001

Business 2.0 [5] had a set of articles that brings reality to the dot-com fantasists: 

Part One: "We will pay even more attention to customers."
Part Two: "We will work on our timing."
Part Three: "We will stick to the business plan."
Part Four: "We will talk less and do more."
Trial by Fire

You can read reports on those who do not amend their ways by reading f_ckedcompany.com [6] (replace the underscore by the letter 'u'; it is spelled that way to get past your email scanners).


Euro Features

There is now less than a year to go before the final changeover - our euro training workshop [29] can be customised for your business - ask for details.

Greece joins EMU Phase 2

The Irish Times [7] reported Greece's entry into EMU as "Trading ends in Europe's oldest currency". The drachma (meaning "handful" in ancient Greek) was the standard silver coin believed to have been minted around 650BC. The modern drachma was revived in the 1830s after Greece gained independence from Ottoman rule. 

EU Enlargement

However, the Economist magazine of Dec 21st 2000 commented that "Greece has some cause for embarrassment, as it falls behind many European hopefuls" on criteria of readiness to join the EU [8]. Just ahead of Poland, it is behind Hungary, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Malta, and Slovenia. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting and accounting firm, used equally weighted measures of four characteristics (macroeconomic stability, productivity, infrastructure and integration with the rest of Europe) to estimate which candidate-countries best fit the official criteria for accession.

If you know of any web sites in those accession countries with a reference to EMU and the euro, please let me know so I can add them to our Euro Web Links Directory [32]

EMUbusiness Newsletter

As well as the Irish Times and the Economist, I keep up-to-date on EMU and the euro with EMUbusiness. This is EUbusiness' twice-monthly newswire, produced in partnership with Euro-impact, on euro-area governments' decisions in fields such as tax, accounting and introduction of notes and coins. To subscribe to this newsletter by e-mail, send a message to mailto:subscribe(at)eubusiness(dot)com  and in the BODY of the message type:

SUBSCRIBE EMUBUSINESS

Here is a sample from the Dec 12, 2000 issue:

Time to empty Ireland's piggy banks [9]
"Now is the time for the people of Ireland to start thinking about spending all their loose change, the Central Bank of Ireland is suggesting. Every household in Ireland has on average more than EUR 30 stashed away, primarily in glass bottles and jam jars. This is a total of 550 million coins worth more than EUR 35 million. Most are 1p and 2p coins, though many are 1 pound coins."

Are you sure your software applications can support all the requirements for the business changeover to the euro? Get an independent assessment with our euro software certification service. [30] 

Euro Quiz 

Q1: Will any euro notes and coins be available before 1.1.2002?

Q2: What is the oldest currency in continuous circulation up to the present day in Europe? 

Answer below. 

Did you know?…

You can learn about the INTRASTAT  labyrinth at http://www.intrastat.co.uk.[10]

If your organisation has a web site on the euro, you can provide your web site visitors with answers to frequently asked questions on EMU and the euro currency, by a link to our comprehensive FAQ. This list of Frequently Asked Questions and their answers [11] is rated by Yahoo.com EMU page [12] as the #2 "Related Web Site" after the European Commission itself.

Euro Quiz Answer

A1: Euro notes and coins will not generally be available before 1.1.2002. Financial institutions will be "frontloaded" from as early as September 2001, and this affects the cash-in-transit industry. Retailers, affected groups such as the blind and finally the general public may obtain "starter packs" of coins during December, However, none of these can be used until 1.1.2002.

A2: For a change, this is a competition! Reply to this newsletter to enter - the first entry quoting a convincing authoritative source that I can verify gets their name in lights and one of our pocket euro calculators! Runners up get a euro pen.

Many of the readers of this newsletter are influencers who provide euro advice and services to business. Why not help them and give yourself some heavyweight support by giving your clients a copy of my book+CD "Managing the euro in infomation systems: strategies for success" [31]


Information Security

Self protection 101.

If you're just starting out and wondering what the minimum recommended practice is, I suggest reading a Norton AntiVirus SupportNow! News Bulletin. [13]   It recommends:

1. Backup, backup, backup
2. Create system rescue disks
3. Create a Windows startup disk
4. Use current virus definitions and keep protection active
5. Practice safe computing (be suspicious)
6. Block hackers while online
7. Never use pirated software
8. Perform regular system maintenance (e.g. scandisk)
9. Password-protect your shared files
10. Disable the Windows Scripting Host

If you don't do all those, learn how today.


E-Business

Y2K was marked by the burst of "irrational exuberance" [14] at the start followed by the gradual fizzling out of so many dot-coms. 

Cnet reported in November "The Tally on Dot-Com Deaths" [15] that "The sun has set for nearly 130 Internet companies since January, leading to about 8,000 layoffs. The number of deceased dot-coms has steadily increased since April, when the market for Internet-related concerns began to plummet. Before this, many Internet companies lived in a heyday of venture capital courting and record-high public offerings. Countless consumer Internet companies, for example, saw their stock prices soar to highs near $100 before the market malaise; many now are nursing share prices in the single digits."
Before the crash hit Microsoft hard (its stock has dropped 60%), it was reported that Paul Allen and Bill Gates were selling [16] hundreds of millions of dollars of Microsoft stock. When the owners sell, that's a strong indicator. 

While it must have been fun to have been burning other people's money like that, the investors soon learned to look for returns. With the hype out of the way, we can look forward to real projects coming to the fore. The use of the net for "frictionless business" is a good metaphor. For example, it costs $65 to process a paper-based order and less than $5 to do the same thing online. [17] But that depends on the acceptance of industry standards, and many companies will be wary of being tied into one solution. The increasing attention to XML standards for data exchange has yet to emerge from the technical depths of the engine rooms of business. But it will. BASDA (now called the Business Application Software Developer's Association) is active in the EBis-XML [18] group, and Microsoft's initiative is coming on line this year.

Usability

I have enjoyed  Frontend's web reviews [19] which use some of the world's most popular websites in order to illustrate key concepts in usability engineering. Not every review is exhaustive, some only discuss a single feature, but each demonstrates the ways in which usability can make or break a web presence. Nor are these lessons limited to the online environment. In a recent survey they reported that the ill-use of presentation and terminology on a life insurance company's website seriously compromised the overall user experience.

Free Ebusiness video for Irish readers

As part of Enterprise Ireland's campaign to increase awareness and uptake of e-commerce among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), they commissioned an E Commerce case studies video "Click onto E Business" [20]. The video contains three case studies of e-businesses who have embraced technology to further enhance their business by way of the Internet. It shows how they got involved with e-business and what it entailed.


Software Quality

Presentations from Software Productivity in a Changing World in Dublin are now available on the DCU web site [21] 

For other software quality links, see our Software Process Improvement (SPI)  [22] web page including SPI mail lists and ISO 9000.

Project Management Proverbs

The more desperate the situation the more optimistic the situatee. 


Tech stuff

Notepad+ [23] This free utility by Rogier Meurs  opens very large text files. It can be toggled between a chosen fixed space or variable font.

FMView  [24] Shareware by Dieter Prifling, Version 2.0 (1997.11.12) sets up as a very fast right mouse button viewer (and close view) in Windows Explorer which supports viewing over 80 file formats. 

File Investigator [25] Shareware by Robert Zirnstein Jr., this right mouse button utility  identifies a file by its contents rather than filename extension, and extracts information out of 567 different types of files. 


The lighter side

As this newsletter was written during the 12 days of Christmas, we have a page of some holiday humour [26] with that theme. Fun, that is, if you're a quality manager or in technical support!

A new word has been coined: Wapathy [27] - the frustrations that have mounted over the limitations of calling up the World Wide Web on cell phones. You can read other examples at the IT Devil's Dictionary [28].


WEB LINKS

[1] http://www.sysmod.com/posty2k.htm 

[2] http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q256/9/04.ASP 

[3] http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=459416 

[4] www.technobility.com  

[5] http://www.business20.com/content/magazine/indepth/2000/12/18/23925

[6] http://www.f_ckedcompany.com (change the underscore to a "u")

[7] http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2000/1230/wor10.htm 

[8] http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=459461 

[9] http://www.eubusiness.com/item/33693

[10] http://www.intrastat.co.uk

[11] http://www.sysmod.com/eurofaq.htm

[12] http://fullcoverage.yahoo.com/Full_Coverage/World/european_monetary_union 

[13] http://www.symantec.com/techsupp/bulletin/archive/nav/122000nav.html 

[14] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64949-2000Dec29.html 

[15] http://www.nytimes.com/cnet/CNET_0_4_3727225_00.html

[16] http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/bursts/0,7407,2628463,00.html

[17] http://www.observer.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,416402,00.html 

[18] http://www.ebis-xml.com/ 

[19] http://www.frontend.com/usability_infocentre/site_review/index.html

[20] http://www.entemp.ie/ecd/ClickontoEBusiness.doc  

[21] http://www.cse.dcu.ie/cse/2000conference.html

[22] http://www.sysmod.com/swdev.htm

[23] http://www.mypeecee.org/rogsoft/ 

[24] http://www.wincorner.com/

[25] http://www.robware.com/index.html

[26] http://www.sysmod.com/xmas.htm 

[27] http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/18/technology/18WIRE.html

[28] http://www.isham-research.freeserve.co.uk/dd.html

[29] http://www.sysmod.com/eurowork.htm 

[30] http://www.sysmod.com/eurocert.htm 

[31] http://www.sysmod.com/maneuris.htm 

[32] http://www.sysmod.com/euro-web.htm 

[33] http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/technology/AP-Norway-Y2K-Bug.html 


Patrick O'Beirne

Copyright 2001 Systems Modelling Limited, http://www.sysmod.com . Reproduction allowed provided the report is copied in its entirety and with this copyright notice.

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ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

"Praxis" means model or example, from the Greek verb "to do". The name is chosen to reflect our focus on practical solutions to IS problems, avoiding hype. If you like acronyms, think of it as "Patrick's reports and analysis across Information Systems".

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