Euro conversion is as important as Y2K, says ITAA

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an industry group representing public policy issues for IT companies, has published a white paper with its recommendations for IT vendors and users having to convert their systems to accomodate the upcoming single European Union currency called the euro.

The white paper, dubbed "Toward a More Perfect Union: The European Monetary Conversion and its Impact on Information Technology," outlines what the ITAA considers the most important issues facing companies set to upgrade their computer systems for the new currency. Many computers aren't equipped to recognise the euro, meaning that banks, insurance companies, retailers and any company with computer billing systems will likely be affected by the so-called euro problem.

The ITAA says the euro problem is as pressing and important as the Year 2000 problem and urges companies to address the issue as soon as possible, the organisation said in a statement. The white paper's goal is to educate companies about the issues surrounding the euro conversion, from considerations about business strategy to internal and supplier-related operability concerns, the ITAA said. In particular, the white paper focuses on the impact of the euro on high-end software and hardware in financial services companies.

However, the ITAA pointed out that not only high-end software will be affected, but also operating systems and desktop applications - such as spreadsheets - that use currency symbols, the organisation said. Applications for human resources and sales departments will also be affected.

As many as ten countries, including France, Austria, Spain, Finland and Germany, are expected to confirm their participation in the single European currency, for partial implementation come January 1, 1999, the ITAA said. While companies in countries where the euro is to be implemented on a wide scale undoubtedly need to worry about converting their systems, even non-euro participating countries - in Europe and around the world - will see their currencies fixed to the euro starting next year, the organization said. This means that even companies that simply do business with companies in countries that adopt the euro will be affected, the white paper said.

In order to deal with fixing the euro problem and the Year 2000 problem at the same time, it is most important that upgrade plans are highly organised and disciplined, in order to get both projects finished in time, the ITAA said. This is easier said than done, however, the ITAA admitted.

Corporate attention and financial resources are often stretched to the limit, with the euro taking a back seat to the Year 2000 problem, the white paper said. Companies need to determine which elements of the enterprise will require change and eliminate any unnecessary upgrades or replacements.

One thing the euro project has over the Year 2000 is time; most companies have until 2002 to make sure their systems are fully compliant, whereas the Year 2000 problem is more immediate, the white paper said. However, that is not to say that companies shouldn't start on the euro conversion right away, ITAA said. The currency's roll-out is gradual, but will begin in 1999, the organisation reminded.

But despite being granted a bit more time to get systems in order for the euro, companies need to realise that the problem is just as important as the Year 2000, the ITAA cautioned. Ignoring the euro could have disastrous consequences on a company's ability to remain successful and competitive, it said.

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