According to Action 2000's latest State of the Nation research, 40 percent of firms employing between 20-99 people are putting their businesses and employees at risk by taking little or no action on the problem.
Gywnneth Flower, managing director of Action 2000 blamed complacency, a refusal to see the wider implications of the problem and a belief that a "quick fix" was just around the corner as the reasons for the shocking figures. "Their progress is woefully slow, they have too casual an attitude. These businesses hold the key to trade after the millennium and they are seriously at risk," she said. "Do they really want to put not only their own, but their employees' livelihoods on the line?"
Flower denied that it was the government's job to force action from the laggards. "I need to steer a careful course and not be too much the nanny," she said. "It is the responsibility of managers. If businesses go bust it is their business and it is not our role to interfere in the running of business."
While Flower was hesitant to put figures on the economic impact of so many businesses going under, she was keen to stress that January 1st would be just the beginning of the problem. "The bug is not going to strike on 01/01/2000. As far as business is concerned they will not notice anything even after they go back to work," she said. Instead problems will become apparent gradually as salaries and suppliers are paid and quarterly results come out Flower believes. "Those who think the world will end on January 1st are way off the mark. These businesses are more likely to bleed to death by a thousand cuts," she said.
Karl Feilder, president and CEO of Y2K consultancy Greenwich Mean Time believes the problem is even worse than Action 2000 is portraying. "Within the constraints of its system, Action 2000 results are reflecting accurate data," he said. "But my own information is that the situation is much worse." He blames computer companies for not informing customers of the problem and promises a huge publicity push from software companies in the autumn. "There will be a big advertising campaign from the large software vendors. They have realised that if they don't help their customers they wont have any but it is coming terribly late," he said. With many firms operating a three month business plan, there is still time to fix mission critical systems, Feilder thinks.
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