Banking On Tomorrow

Tick... Tick... Tick...

Listen up: Millennium experts say massive calculation errors will occur in your computer
system and software if they haven't been equipped to compute the new century properly. What's the problem? All dates need to be converted from the current six-digit format (12/22/96, for example) into an eight-digit sequence (12/22/2000)-or else computing blunders will occur in time-sensitive information such as accounting programs, databases, tax documents and more.

For most small companies using computers, there's still time to begin tackling this problem-but you need to act quickly. "For the small-business person, now is the time to strike," insists Jerome T. Murray, co-author of The Year 2000 Computing Crisis: A Millennium Date Conversion Plan (McGraw-Hill).

Why the rush? Murray estimates the entire date conversion process can take anywhere from two to four years. This includes the time needed to find and hire appropriate computer consultants and time for them to become familiar with your business's operations, diagnose the problem, develop a conversion plan and implement it. And the longer a company procrastinates, Murray warns, the slimmer the pool of professional personnel to choose from-particularly for small-business owners who don't have the deep pockets corporations have to solve this problem.

Conversion doesn't come cheap. Murray anticipates it will cost small companies anywhere from $500 up to $10 million, including costs for consultant expertise, new software tools, and potential profit opportunities lost to competitors that have already converted.

Unless you have the expertise, you'll need a computer consultant to get you started on the conversion process. Murray recommends interviewing several consultants to find one who has worked on this type of problem in a company of similar size and kind. Talk with your consultant often to track the conversion process. Then, once you're satisfied with the solution-and have conducted several test runs on your computer-it's time to implement it into your regular operations.

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This article was originally published in the August 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Banking On Tomorrow.

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