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Majority opt for January 1st changeover Back  
As time runs out for firms to plan for the euro changeover we review what’s left to be done.
Yes, euro awareness is up but this month’s contributors agree that there is a still a lack of action in implementing key tasks for a sucessful euro changeover.

Is there a sense of apathy amongst Irish businesses? Of course the larger companies are better prepared but throughout this special focus it is apparent that many of them are far less prepared at this stage than they expected to be.

Operational systems such as databases and key spreadsheets have been identified as areas of concern and Irish companies seem, in the majority, to be operating under misconceptions about what needs to be done. This is particularly true in the small, to medium sized company.

T?naiste Mary Harney has urged Irish businesses to redouble their efforts to ensure a smooth changeover to the euro. Speaking at a conference on the Euro Changeover on 20th June, the T?naiste said that while recognition amongst the public was up - that businesses still had work to do.

And the stakes are high - simply mispricing goods could lead to loss of up to 27 per cent says Vince D’Arcy - argument enough that euro changeover must take priority in Irish businesses.

According to the June 2001 survey of Irish business euro perparedness, carried out by Forf?s, 78 per cent of firms say they have now received information on the euro and 79 per cent have someone with specific responsibility for managing the changeover. Good news in itself, but worrying that a higher level of skill is not being applied to the project. Being aware of the euro or receiving information on the euro is simply not enough.

According to the survey some 73 per cent of firms have now decided when they will change over to the euro as their base currency, up from 66 per cent in the last survey carried out by Forfas in November 2000. This does however leave 27 per cent of businesses that have yet to take a decision as to when they will make the change. Of the firms that have decided when to change, the majority (61 per cent) have decided to make the changeover on 1st January next, with 25 per cent indicating that they would switch in the last quarter of this year.

However, there is also evidence that this increased level of preparations has still to translate into practical action on the part of firms in undertaking specific steps to implement the changeover in their businesses.

While businesses are aware that the plans and preferences of customers and suppliers may have an impact on their own plans for changing over, only 29 per cent of firms have discussed the changeover with their customers while 22 per cent have raised the issue with suppliers.

In the area of computer software, almost 40 per cent of all firms relying on software have still not undertaken an audit to determine its euro functionality to see if it will be sufficient to meet the company’s changeover requirements. On the positive side, of those that have undertaken such an audit, 81 per cent feel that their current software will be sufficient for their changeover requirements.

In relation to the practical actions to be undertaken in changing over to the euro, such as dual pricing, dual display on invoices, making tax returns, paying staff salaries, changing annual accounts, there has been little increase in overall activity since the last survey was conducted in November 2000.

In particular, results in this area would indicate that a majority of firms are intending to leave the changeover of these specific tasks until 1 January 2002.

A note of concern arises in relation to staff training. Fifty eight per cent of respondents to the survey indicate that they do not intend to undertake any staff - an actual increase from the last time the survey was carried out. Without doubt, the success or otherwise of the changeover for every Irish business will depend on its staff.

Staff will be in the front line of the changeover dealing with customers’ queries, explaining the new euro values, ultimately maintaining the confidence of customers.

Irrespective of the type or size of a business, training will be vital if this is to be achieved effectively.

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