And so, as you read my column this month, the great Euro waltz has begun. It began the first week of January. The new currency co-exists alongside national currencies of those participating European nations until 2002. On January first, 2002, the euro will become the single coin of the realm, times 11. While most American companies are well underway with their Year 2000 remedies (a frenzied dance in its own right), the number of companies who are just now positioning themselves for a Euro transformation is still a significantly smaller percentage. Until Y2K issues are resolved, it appears, by and large, that we are a nation of euro wallflowers?
To better understand the issues American companies will be facing, over the next several months, we have been visiting with a number of American euro solution providers. Their respective insights will be shared in this column in upcoming ESJ issues. Perhaps your firm is about to punch its euro dance card. If so, I encourage you to contact one or more of these experts and discuss your specific project objectives and concerns.
The first provider we spoke with on our quest for euro insight was Micro Focus, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. (www.microfocus.com), an enterprise solution provider with both euro and Year 2000 offering. Brian Carroll is a chief architect for Micro Focus and Sandra Wade, is Director of Market Solutions for Application Transformation Products and Services.
Ms. Wade believes that it is a good idea to leverage the information you have gathered, and the best practices that resulted from the Y2K project, such as software configuration management and testing. But, she warns, "it is probably not a good idea to combine a Y2K and euro effort under a single project umbrella."
The approach to converting a system to support Year 2000, according to Ms. Wade, is very different from a project to support euro currency. On Year 2000 projects, the focus is on date fields and applying fixes that are typically well defined. That definition makes using Year 2000 analysis and automated remediation tools a particularly good investment for Year 2000, but not for euro transformation.
"The Euro currency project is considerably more complex," explains Mr. Carroll. "In fact, the euro is much less an IT problem than the code-specific Y2K resolution effort. Because the project impacts various parts of your business, it can affect your company's ability to compete in the marketplace. A euro effort requires a focus on the company's strategic business objectives. For example, when do you want to implement the euro? Is implementation targeted sometime during the transition period or do you want to adopt at 2002? Will you take a 'Big Bang' approach, or would supporting dual currencies make more sense?"
Economies of Doing Euro Business
In our December column, Robin N. Barrett, Senior Vice President of Technologies for American Express International, shared how the firm is re-engineering the business and technology infrastructure to potentially take a large expense component out of it. Other European business adoptees are also very excited about the potential to accrue cost savings while doing business among member nations. Germany's Daimler Benz (Mercedes and Chrysler), for example, projects that the enterprise will be saving $66 million annually by supporting the common euro, instead of the 11 diverse national currencies currently in use.
Should companies give the euro a high priority and convert to seek a competitive advantage? Wade feels it is important to keep re-evaluating the situation. "Make sure you know what your competitors are doing. Their actions may affect how quickly you choose to support euro transactions. It is a good to plan early, even if your industry segment appears to be slow at adopting the euro."
In terms of business opportunities and competitive advantage, Ms. Wade indicates an obvious answer a lot of American companies have yet to seize upon is how the Internet and electronic commerce has revolutionized the marketplace. "People are far less aware of where it is they are buying goods. American companies who offer products to worldwide customers over the net, and can accept payment using the euro, are at a decided advantage over those online vendors who cannot."
On the technical side, Mr. Carroll advocates the need for very good planning, project management and configuration management in the IT organization. "There is every likelihood, companies will be contending with three separate streams of maintenance: ongoing, regular maintenance, changes for Y2K and changes for the euro. That will be a heavy load, indeed."
We are beginning to see that the euro may offer large companies, doing business in Europe, a hefty return when the 2002 conversion takes place. Smaller companies may also enjoy windfalls as the collective currencies are stabilized. Still, much work remains ahead and no one is accruing any large sums just yet.
About the Author:
Bill Pike, President of PIKE Communications (a Los Angeles business communications firm), can be reached at (310) 391-1862 or via e-mail at Pikecom@earthlink.net.