The potential impact of the Y2K bug continues to plague campanies of all sizes around the world, but media coverage has focused almost exclusively on the situations facing large corporations and government agencies. While the problem is just as real for small business owners, they believe they have the jump on larger firms when it comes to Y2K preparedness.
In a recent national survey of information technology (IT) decision makers conducted by Sage Software, Inc., 55 percent of small businesses under 500 employees reported that they have already fixed their Y2K problem and an additional 38 percent are currently working on a fix. The survey found that the small business community is concerned about the Y2K bug and is acting responsibly in its efforts to combat the problem.
Planning Eases Cost, Time Worries
According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses represent 99 percent of all U.S. employers. The sheer volume of these organizations makes their response to the impending Y2K crisis critical to the continued functionality of the American economy.
One of the more positive aspects of the high levels of awareness of the Y2K problem is that small business owners claim that they planned ahead for the issue and were able to build the related expenses into their budgets for 1999 and 2000.
The cost of Y2K mitigation continues to be an issue, but one that small businesses are keeping in check, despite initial expectations that the bug would cripple many organizations. On average, each small business is allocating $16,600 toward solving the Y2K problem. In the Sage Software Small Business Y2K Survey, 87 percent of respondents said they were not surprised at the costs associated with the Y2K problem, a tribute to the power of meticulous planning.
Staff time appears to be a major factor in Y2K spending, as small businesses on average use three internal employees to fix the problem, bolstered by outside consultants when needed. For very small organizations, outside consultants may be the only source of hands-on expertise in fixing internal systems.
Plan for the Best, and Prepare for the Worst
As the resident technical experts, the IT department obviously will be responsible for answering the tough questions and providing the direction needed by most small businesses to prepare for the coming millennium. Some companies also have found that forming a Y2K team which includes representatives from throughout the firm can be valuable.
If they haven't already done so, now is the time for small businesses to look into the Y2K readiness of all their vendors and other related companies, such as banks and utilities. Careful preparation for the Y2K bug might be sabotaged by a temporary shutdown in the business supply chain due to poor planning. For more details on handling the Y2K situation, companies can turn to organizations such as the Small Business Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as computer and other equipment manufacturers.
Finally, small business owners should remember that it's impossible to foresee every problem, and therefore should have a contingency plan in case their preparation isn't enough and they find themselves unable to conduct business when the year 2000 begins. Developing a Y2K crisis plan could make the difference between continued success and sudden failure.
Dave Butler is Chief Operating Officer of Sage Software Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based accounting software developer.