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Key changeover decisions for the euro being delayed Back  
‘From 1st of January 2002 all the basic operational functions have to be carried out in euro’, Yvonne Cullen reminds Irish business.
You can’t start planning for the euro in 2002’ says Yvonne Cullen. As project manager of the Forf?s EMU business campaign, Cullen says it is about to move into top gear as we count down time-to-euro in months.

‘The key challenge that we’re facing is to get every business to stop and consider the euro now. From 1st of January 2002 all the basic operational functions have to be carried out in euro and businesses have to be ready to deal in euro from that date. So really its backward planning from there’ says Cullen.

The campaign
The campaign’s remit is to provide businesses with the information they need to prepare themselves for the euro changeover. It has been in existence since December 1996 and Cullen joined to run the day-to-day aspects of the campaign in 1997.

In planning its euro campaign Forf?s consulted the IDA, the Chamber of Commerce and IBEC and asked them what they thought would be important issues in introducing the euro for Irish business. From that the campaign evolved.

‘We have specifically developed a number of planning tools designed to assist businesses to determine the likely impact (of the changeover to the euro) on their business’, says Cullen. These include: a planning framework; a business impact analysis tool; six functional checklists for different operational areas like accounting and finance, IT and human resources.’

These are all practical guides to helping your business prepare for the euro and the response so far has been positive. To date 62,000 copies of the campaign’s information pack has been distributed, along with 145,000 copies of the summary brochure and 30,000 copies of the cross-border trade brochure.

‘We do feel that we’ve achieved a lot and that businesses are moving in the right direction’ says Cullen. But she admits it has been hard to maintain momentum recently.

Delaying the euro decisions
Cullen says there was a great sense of anticipation amongst businesses throughout 1998. ‘The reality is that there was a huge sense of expectation and excitement for businesses about the euro launch.’ This she says has died down somewhat particularly in light of other issues like Y2K and adds that ‘that sense of anticipation has been lost.’ What Cullen wants now is to refocus the collective business-mind and reactivate and regenerate that interest.

The campaign also monitors the extent of preparations for the euro and has undertaken five surveys to date to gauge the progress of Irish businesses. ‘We have seen steady progress for all firms, both large and small, but what we have seen is that the larger firms are more advanced’ says Cullen. Much of the campaign’s work is now directed at the small to medium sized businesses because of this.

While progress is being made, the most recent survey highlighted that key changeover decisions for the euro were being delayed. While business were maybe thinking about the euro it appears that it wasn’t in practical terms of how to implement the changeover.

Operational planning
Cullen highlights that the preparations for the euro are more than simply deciding to price products in both Irish pound and euro. She says key issues to address include upgrading accounting software to an appropriate euro version, and deciding when your company will change over to base accounting in the euro. On a practical level Cullen says this means contacting your software supplier and accountant now not in October 2002.

Strategic planning
But Cullen emphasizes that planning a business strategy for Europe is equally important. ‘We’ll no longer be talking about a domestic market of 4 million people but a European market of 300 million consumers. That represents a significant potential opportunity to grow Irish business and expand’, says Cullen.

But the campaign is not blinkered - it is keen to make businesses aware of the challenges of increased competition and price transparency too.

‘This all requires a lot of long-term strategic planning.’

The future
From a personal perspective Cullen says the campaign has evolved with the issues as they have arisen.

‘Because this is uncharted territory, there wasn’t a grand master-plan for the campaign. It has evolved over time.’ This is demonstrated in the fact that when the campaign was launched in December 1996 there were just eight documents published initially. Now there are 33 - each dealing with different aspects of euro implementation.

‘We see ourselves as responding to the needs of business’ says Cullen. Cullen believes that campaign has actually achieved more than expected so far but points out that the only real milestone will be when Irish notes are withdrawn from circulation on 9th February 2002.

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