Readying For 2000

October 1, 1998

Nick Marinello

Time waits for no one, and that's what concerns Tony Lorino. Lorino, senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer, is leading a campuswide effort to ensure that, come Jan. 1, 2000, the ongoing business of Tulane does not come to an abrupt halt.

According to Lorino, the worldwide crisis concerning the potential inability of computer-based technology to discern between the years 2000 and 1900, resulting in unpredictable and perhaps catastrophic consequences, is something Tulane has been working on for more than two years.

"There are several possible scenarios," says Lorino of what could happen if the problem remained unaddressed. "Equipment could cease to operate, computer files could be dumped or eliminated, and important information could be miscalculated."

Such glitches could occur in any technology that is date sensitive, including mainframe computers that control personnel and student records, research equipment, personal computers, fax machines, fire alarm panels and student debit cards.

"Our main concern," says Lorino, "is that we will have identified all of our mission-critical systems and equipment and will have been able to remediate or replace those systems and equipment by the turn of the century in order to minimize the risk of any significant business failure or inability of the university to operate."

The task requires the coordination of internal and external components. Staff members in Tulane Infrastruture Services have been working on "recoding" the university's in-house, mainframe systems for more that two years, says Lorino.

Admission records, accounts receivable and students' records have already been made year 2000 compliant. The student financial aid system, however, will require a vendor-supplied upgrade that is not yet completed. A separate project under way to update the university's financial records system to an Oracle-based system will also address concerns about compliance, says Lorino.

In January, the university engaged the services of its auditors, Deloitte and Touche, and Data Dimensions Inc., a "millennium company" whose sole business is dealing with 2000 compliance issues, to help Tulane design an inventory plan of all systems, equipment and vendors. The university, says Lorino, also has to be concerned that its vendors are year 2000 compliant.

While the initial inventory assessment has been completed, the university is currently determining what systems and equipment need to be updated or replaced. A program management office, headed by Adam Meister and staffed by coordinators for the uptown and downtown campuses, has been instituted to oversee this process. According to Meister, a detailed inventory has been filled out by each department.

"We will review that inventory with each department during the remediation process." Meister said his staff has already begun contacting departments on the uptown and downtown campuses. Lorino expects "most major, critical systems and equipment to have been identified, tested, remediated or replaced" by the end of this fiscal year, June 30, 1999, with the process continuing into the early part of 2000.

The cost of universitywide compliance is estimated at $20 million, says Lorino, who adds that the budgets of many departments will be strained to meet the funding requirements. In a presentation submitted to the Tulane Board of Administrators finance committee, the cash-flow requirements to handle the cost of identifying, testing and fixing the problem will be addressed through "alternative funding scenarios, including short-term borrowing," says Lorino.

Despite the extensive nature of the problem and its solution, Lorino believes the process will likely be transparent to most members of the Tulane community. "One of the disappointing things about all the time and effort devoted to this is that you really don't get anything new," he says. "It basically allows you to stay in business."

A universitywide awareness program is currently being developed, including a Web site to address year 2000 issues. Questions concerning year 2000 compliance should be directed to Adam Meister, 733-6287, ext. 222.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000