10 Reasons Why SEPA is like Sitting High School Exams

I’ve been thinking recently about how SEPA, and come to think of it most multi-country corporate projects, are a bit like sitting a high school exam! With the official deadline upon us, most attention will turn to how ready corporates and Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are. Here is why I think the SEPA project, or any other regional project, is quite like taking a high school exam.

1. You always think time is on your side…

We always know when the high school exams will take place. Similarly we have known the SEPA timeline for quite a while:

  • The SEPA Credit Transfer was born in 2008
  • The SEPA Direct Debit was launched in 2009
  • The 1st February, 2014 deadline was announced in March 2012

But we think time is on our side, and due to parties (during the high school years at least ..!!) or other projects, resource restraints and/or lack of knowledge or understanding the SEPA project is left till the last moment….

2. You will end up cramming as much as you can into the last few months

The European Central Bank figures indicated the following SEPA compliance stats in the Eurozone:

SEPA Scheme December, 2013 January, 2013 May, 2014 August, 2014
Credit Transfer 73.78% 83.13% 96.86% 99.38%
Direct Debits 41% 60.23% 88.16% 99.93%

The above stats show that as the deadline looms, you end up cramming and putting in a monumental effort to meet the deadline. Similarly, during exams if you were anything like me you ended up cramming the night before and even during the morning of the exam.

3. An exam consists of a mock followed by the final exam

4. You must take multiple exams covering a variety of subjects

Similarly, SEPA consists of many disciplines which will challenge you and your team. To name a few:

  1. Art – pre printed invoices / letterheads need to indicate BIC / IBAN information
  2. Maths – if you do it yourself the conversion to IBAN involves a complex algorithm, additionally excel will be used throughout the project
  3. Languages – you will work with colleagues from various/ perhaps all of the SEPA countries
  4. Technology – XML and system upgrades are a key components of your SEPA implementation
  5. Design – most SEPA implementations require significant amount of re-design. Business source system and/or end to end business process redesign are highly likely
  6. Geography – you need to understand which SEPA countries are in scope for 2014
  7. Religious Education – after all is said and done, some praying and faith is needed during go live 🙂

5. You don’t always understand what is required

  • You’re not always sure what the European Payments Council, country and bank requirements are 🙂
  • So you try and understand what is going on by attending SEPA workshops, SEPA conferences, SEPA bank meetings and still don’t understand certain components of SEPA
  • In fact, you realise that everyone else is in the same boat too!
  • Examples of this include SEPA Direct Debit scheme nuances, various country to country requirements in both the SEPA direct debit and credit transfer schemes, and finally different levels of bank readiness across the Eurozone

6. Team work contributes to the final result

  • You will work with various people including in-country teams, technical and accounting staff, perhaps some offshore teams and consultants — all of whom will significantly contribute to the success / failure of your project
  • At some point, a key player will leave and you have to manage with the loss of the specific skill/knowledge gap they contributed to the team and project

7. There will be at least one Oral Exam

For SEPA this typically includes:

  • SEPA presentations to kick off the SEPA project, and in time providing Status Updates to the project stakeholders
  • Providing system and process training to your end users

8. Somewhere down the line, some things will go wrong

  • You may not understand all of the requirements, or perhaps the requirements differ between country A and country B
  • At some point an internal team, your bank or payment services provider will let you down

9. One exam is followed by another…

With SEPA, we all understand the 2014 deadline(s), and know there is another deadline in February 2016

10. You make some great friends and have some fun times

During the SEPA project, like during your high school years, you will meet some great colleagues and make some good friends. The roller coaster ride during your SEPA implementation(s) bring out the best in you and your colleagues

  • For sanity each SEPA implementation is usually celebrated with a couple of beers, just like your high school days 😉

Do you agree…? Can you think of any other similarities between SEPA and your high school exams?

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