A new poll of information systems managers suggests many are unduly complacent about other companies' preparedness for year-2000 computer- related problems.

Though 92% of those surveyed acknowledged they themselves had more work to do, they were confident that 34% of the firms they do business with are ready now for Y2K.

"A lot of companies say they're optimistic, but their optimism is not grounded on hard information," said Edward Yardeni, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, who sees a 70% chance of a global recession related to the century-date changeover at yearend.

The data suggests a gap between what companies have been saying and what their own experts believe. More than one-third of those experts plan to have a week's worth of cash and food on hand at home next Jan. 1. And 35% also expect to be at work on the Y2K problem the last weekend of the year.

Mr. Yardeni said the inconsistency between the managers' views of their own operations and their views on others' was disturbing. He noted one in ten acknowledged that their firms would not be ready by yearend.

Moreover, he noted that results of the poll are skewed toward the U.S. banking and financial sector, which is viewed as ahead of other sectors in coping with turn-of-the-century computer readiness.

The Y2K Experts Poll was jointly conducted June 9-16 by Mr. Yardeni, the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, and CIO magazine. Responses came from 892 business organizations worldwide, 25.6% of which are in the banking and finance sector.

The firms polled are major businesses, with 61% having more than 1,000 employees and doing business with 1,300 other firms. Respondents ranged from chief information officers to line-of-business managers.

Seventy-two percent of the companies said they are now better than three-quarters finished with their Y2K conversion projects; but the survey also found a third of businesses behind schedule.

"If a significant number of these companies are lagging, what does that say for small business?" asked Gary J. Beach, publisher of CIO. Moreover, it raises questions about the trend, he said: Are more companies catching up or falling behind?

The survey, to be repeated in September, also found that:

Fifty percent of the companies either have no formal Y2K contingency plan or are still working on one.

Thirty-five percent of large firms are still waiting for mission- critical computer software to be delivered.

Forty-one percent of firms expect failure of up to 5% of their mission- critical software. Mr. Beach termed this "unbelievable at this stage of the game."

Only 12% of large companies are actually verifying their business partners' Y2K readiness with on-site visits.

Forty-three percent of firms anticipate "minor problems" with electrical and telephone service.

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