A consultancy is throwing a lifeline to to small and medium sized enterprises plagued by the millennium bug.
DMR, the Year 2000 consultancy, has launched a survival guide that gives SMEs practical guidance on how to defuse the IT time bomb that could blow a hole in their businesses.
The guide includes a list of the 14 main problems, a management checklist of actions and a summary of remedies.
SMEs have hardly started to address the problem of converting systems for the millennium date change, claims Martin Caddick, DMR?s Year 2000 practice director. ?Awareness of the problem started in the big financial institutions because they depend on IT for automated transactions. It has been picked up on by some retailers and catalogue businesses but many SMEs haven?t started addressing the problem at all,? he warned.
Part of the problem according to Caddick is that: ?the big vendors - IBMs and the Cap Geminis have focused on the top 500 blue chip companies. No-one is providing help for SMEs.?
Paul Vlissidis, Year 2000 business manager of the UK National Computing Centre, agrees with this view. ?If M&S comes knocking on your door and says fix my systems, it will be given priority. The big corporations have the money, skill and clout. SMEs represent the rump of GNP and there is a lot of pressure on them to tackle their business links.?
Vlissidis says another problem is that many SMEs haven?t taken out maintenance agreements: ?It?s weighed up as a cost/benefit thing, but Year 2000 is when the risks come home to roost.?
But the smaller companies should not be ignored. The Y2K problem will ?have an impact on the 1.5 million SMEs, which is #500 billion worth of the UK economy,? according to Caddick.
?Any business reliant on a computer system will be impacted, 35 per cent of mainframes and 10-20 per cent of client service systems,? warns Caddick. ?Other guides have been about awareness - ours differs because it is more pragmatic, a step-by-step guide.?
?The survival guide takes an SME through the lifecycle of the problem from management resistance to getting through the Year 2000 and beyond with maps and charts that can be followed and checklists that can be ticked off ,? he continued.
Apart from highlighting the 14 specific issues which users need to consider such as problem recognition and risk assessment, the guide includes a list of top 10 ?remediation principles.? Caddick says the most important of these is: ?making the Year 2000 the number one priority.? Following on from that is: ?getting started by taking a component inventory. Look at what you?ve got and what you need to do. You can do a huge volume yourself in advance. Not everything needs to be outsourced, but you do need a good project manager. A mitigation strategy should be worked out - it is really a management issue, not a technical one.?
The problem extends beyond solving your own IT problem: ?You can?t assume your trading partners are safe, even if you are. If 10 per cent of them fail to address the problem it could seriously affect your cash flow problem,? says Caddick. ?Trading partners could be lost and bankruptcies are possible. How an SME is tackling the Year 2000 is one of the factors banks consider before issuing loans.?
DMR is part of Amdhal-Fujitsu and the Year 2000 guide will be provided to its customers when they pay for the printing costs, although it is available through other channels too for a fee. Caddick admits ?there is obviously potential for us to pick up business from SMEs through the guide, but the idea behind it was a genuine concern that no-one was doing anything for SMEs.?
The government has come under fire for not doing enough in this area. Donald Cruickshank, chairman of the government?s Action 2000 body, is only devoting one day a week to solving the millennium problem. Caddick says this state of affairs is ?laughable?.
A DTI spokesperson said: ?The DTI?s role is to provide an interface with the private sector and bring rising awareness of the issue. We have done enough. Where people aren?t doing enough is in the business community itself.?
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