SMALL to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the world over will benefit from Australian IT expertise as OICY2KRAMP - a Y2K remediation process developed by the Sydney-based Open Interchange Consortium (OIC) - next week takes on six other category finalists in Stockholm's Global Bangemann Challenge IT competition.

Two years in development, the OICY2K Resource Asset Management Program was developed to help SMEs confirm their Y2K remediation progress to business partners. SMEs are widely held to be the business category most at risk of Y2K problems, since surveys have repeatedly shown that many small companies believe they won't be affected.

However, many banks, insurance companies and business partners are now requiring SMEs to prove their Y2K compliance before agreeing to deal with them. Yet for many SMEs, the cost and time required for a huge remediation effort is simply too great to bear.

OICY2KRAMP aims to alleviate the financial pressures of Y2K compliance by letting SMEs spread the cost of remediation between now and June 30, 2001, which is the sunset date set out by the Y2K Information Disclosure Act.

Priced at between $3 and $10 per seat per month, OICY2K-RAMP users get several asset management tools and a mentor to monitor the company's progress towards Y2K compliance. SMEs with their own IT staff can nominate their own mentor, but the OIC has also partnered with IT staffing companies that can provide SMEs with external consultants if necessary. Mentors will continually monitor the SMEs' remediation efforts, providing feedback that the OIC will use to issue a monthly certificate attesting to the company's progress. This certificate, in turn, can be presented to a business partner requiring proof of Y2K compliance.

wayne strong

Wayne Strong is an Australian juror for the Global Bangemann Challenge.

OICY2KRAMP was chosen "for the innovative way they were trying to resolve the Y2K problem and the accessibility [to SMEs]", says Wayne Strong, principal of the Ballarat-based Strong Consulting Group and Australia's representative on the 28-member Bangemann judging panel. "A lot of organisations have invested enormous amounts of money to try to rectify this problem, but [OICY2KRAMP] is truly global by its nature," he said. "Some of the other entrants were a little more parochial and just within a certain region, but an enormous number of small businesses [around the world] can benefit from OICY2KRAMP. This is a fairly unique project."

Begun in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1997, the Global Bangemann Challenge (at grew out of a 1994 report in which European Union Commissioner Martin Bangemann outlined recommendations for Europe's use of IT. Of about 700 projects originally submitted in 11 categories, just 96 finalists remain. Two other Australian groups (the I*EARN First Peoples' Project run through Bairnsdale Secondary College, and the Australian Museums On-Line Project hosted by the Powerhouse Museum) have also been named as finalists, although in different categories than the OIC.

At the awards ceremony next Wednesday, OIC representatives may well be shaking the hand of the King of Sweden for their efforts. But whether OICY2KRAMP wins or not, Gould hopes the competition's global exposure will attract sponsorship that the OIC needs to complete and market the methodology internationally.

Clock from Standards Australia y2kregister Web site.

"What a trading partner really wants to see is that you're fixing Y2K on a regular time scale," says Stephen Gould, publicity officer with the OIC. "We just record the fact that a particular Y2K testing tool has been used, and whether all seven levels of Y2K compliance have been addressed. It's then up to a trading partner to decide whether that's good enough."

At a total cost of between $72 and $240 per seat, OICY2KRAMP is within the reach of many SMEs unable to afford exorbitant Y2K consultants. It may well be a lifesaver for many companies wanting to secure loans or insurance policies into 2000 and beyond, says Gould.

"It's not too late to fix Y2K problems," he says. "What we think is going to drive it is accountants and banks saying they won't do [SMEs'] books or provide them with an overdraft until they can see that [the SME] is carrying out the right processes. Left to their own devices, SMEs have their own issues they have to contend with on a day-to-day basis."

Recognition of OICY2KRAMP's unique approach came in early May when it was announced that the OIC had beaten off nearly 90 competitors to become one of just seven finalists in the Small and Medium Business category of the Global Bangemann Challenge.

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