The figures released Thursday, show two in five of the businesses surveyed were doing nothing about the bug problem with Northern Ireland, Wales and the West Midlands, areas of greatest concern.
Although awareness and understanding has improved there is still far too little action being taken, according to Action 2000 chairman Don Cruickshank. "The reality gap has pretty much disappeared, people know now what the problem is. 60 percent of these businesses will be finished on time, but that leaves a worrying amount which wont."
For businesses reliant on the supply chain, Cruickshank said the result will be loss of business. "Large companies are only going to rely on (supply) companies that are millennium compliant," he said. Business growth and expansion will, he said, be affected unless they get their act together "as banks will refuse loans to companies that have got no programme in place". The knock on effect will impact the whole economy. "Things are tough enough, especially for manufacturing industry. There is no good reason for adding another problem," said Cruickshank.
Even if companies do take the message onboard, it could be a case of too little, too late prompting Cruickshank to predict a skills crunch. "There aren't enough skills to go around. There will be a sudden surge to get help and companies will not be able to get hold of skills."
Despite Action 2000's aggressive marketing campaign to alert companies about the millennium bug, Cruickshank remains pessimistic about the future. "Too many of them (small and medium sized companies) are going to be too late" he said.