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1998-01-14 09:28:59


Merill Lynch's Problem: 170 Million Lines



Merrill Lynch, the nation's leading stock broker, has a large problem. This story says that Merrill is on schedule. Of course, no organization has ever corrected 170 million lines of code before -- or 70 million -- so no one really knows what the schedule is.

Now, all Merrill and the rest of us need to know is that every other major brokerage firm on earth is also on schedule. And every money center bank. And every phone company. And every bank wire transmission service.

This article appeared in COMPUTERWORLD (Jan. 12).

* * * * * * *

Tucked away in a nondescript suburban office park 60 miles from Wall Street is a platoon of programmers charged with fixing the 170 million lines of code needed to keep the world's biggest brokerage alive.

The programmers are among the 100 full-time staffers and 150 consultants who make up the year 2000 project team at Merrill Lynch & Co. Given the global reach of the New York-based brokerage, the world's markets teeter on the success of this year 2000 project as much as any other.

In spite of the pressure that comes with having to fix 1,450 applications, this group of casually dressed, mostly fortysomethings exudes a quiet confidence. They are pacing themselves, working 40- to 50-hour weeks and occasional weekends to test repaired code against production systems.

The biggest near-term challenge Merrill Lynch faces is keeping the recruiting wolves from snatching away staff and contract programmers from any of the seven software "factories" the company has set up in New York and New Jersey to fix date-sensitive code. . . .

Merrill Lynch is still on schedule with a year 2000 effort that included the renovation of 35 million lines of code last quarter. Sorgen credits Luechinger, a 49-year-old who three years ago steered Merrill Lynch through T+3, another gigantic reprogramming project with an immovable deadline.

T+3 was a securities industry initiative that forced brokerages and clearinghouses to settle transactions in three days instead of the old five-day standard. Companies such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman, Sachs & Co. had to retrofit their systems. . . .

Said Luechinger, "I feel this incredible weight hanging over my head."


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