Computer Weekly (UK)

9th January, 1997

by Julia Vowler

BT trading partners get 2000 ultimatum

BT has warned that it will stop doing business with companies who cannot promise their internal IT systems will handle the year 2000 date change in time. The telecoms giant has given its 1,800 core suppliers, ranging from IT firms to stationers, a red, amber and green traffic light grading, telling "red" suppliers that they may be replaced.

And other major IT users are following in BT's footsteps. "Year 2000 compliance is a significant issue for us in respect of buying kit," said BT's year 2000 project manager, Milli Lewis. Lewis said more than half of BT's suppliers have still not answered its initial millennium queries. "We are now starting an escalation process which will lead to BT not trading with suppliers after an l8-week warning."

The final decision to cease trading with a supplier will be taken by the head of supply management at BT. Lewis expects the company to have a good idea of which suppliers may be axed by March. "We'll have started to weed out suppliers," she said.

BT has already axed a network supplier because of the millennium compliance issue. "We wanted to upgrade part of our network, but the supplier's reply was not sufficiently convincing, so we've given the contract to another company," said Lewis. Suppliers of particularly critical products or services will get advice and information from BT to help them tackle their year 2000 problem, she added.

Other big IT users are also warning trading partners they could stop using them if they are not millennium compliant. "We've written to all our suppliers, some of whom have direct links into our IT systems, telling them we need them to be compliant," said a spokeswoman for supermarket giant Sainsbury's, which is offering suppliers a year 2000 helpline to get them started.

Marks & Spencer is also checking its 700-plus suppliers. "They obviously have to look at their computers to make sure they are millennium compliant otherwise they would not be able to conduct business with us," said a spokeswoman.

"It's essential to realise no company is an island," warned Robin Guenier, executive director of Taskforce 2000, set up by the Government to help tackle the year 2000 problem. But Guenier added that while some companies may have to threaten to stop trading with non-compliant businesses, they may not have the luxury of choice.

Copyright © Reed Business Publishing 1997

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