Business uncertainty over Brexit may cause an IT crisis

Uncertainty regarding Brexit is paralysing for small and large businesses alike. Eggplant CEO Dr John Bates discusses the IT crisis for businesses in light of Brexit.

As we find ourselves on the precipice of Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal – or not – from the EU is dominating the news agenda to such an extent that it’s hard to imagine what would fill media air time without it. That said, given the protracted, arduous and exhausting nature of negotiations thus far, it’s easy to see how the faith of the general populace that this will reach a conclusion soon is at an all time low.

Nowhere is this more keenly felt than in the business community. Large or small, sole trader to multinational enterprise, we’ve all felt the impact of this situation. This is largely driven by one sentiment – uncertainty. Even the exit date that was seemingly set in stone two years ago has changed. It is therefore little surprise that planning for the future has become problematic. And in this article, I present some hard statistics that present these business concerns in stark terms.

Moving from the frying pan to the fire?

Whether Brexiteer or Remainer, the environment of uncertainty is manifesting itself in a paralysis by analysis scenario. Businesses are stuck between giving the powers that be as much time as necessary to come up with a clear next step. However, this is juxtaposed with the loss of patience that a deal will be done potentially moving UK plc from the frying pan into the fire.

That said, irrespective of the outcome, the world will still turn and businesses will adapt. It’s what we do. But this means we are at an inflection point in proceedings. Businesses must find a way to move from one situation to another seamlessly, but with a blindfold on. This means there is one certainty at least, that from mission-critical operations to ensuring quality consumer experiences, Britain will be tested rigorously for continuity beyond Brexit.

Operating efficiently in the new normal

Figuring out and understanding day to day systems and processes in the ‘new normal’ starts now. Brexit could mean anything from a slight change to a complete clean sweep in how things are done. From data sharing and movement of people, to international trade and a raft of changes in rules and regulations. The list is feasibly endless, but we are witnessing one of the greatest periods of uncertainty in our lifetime and this is amplified at an organisational level.

Our own research found that 81 per cent of businesses are likely to review or update existing business processes and software as a direct result of Brexit. It also found that almost two thirds of businesses believe it is certain or very likely that Brexit will impact software systems and processes. That is a huge amount of changes taking place, which brings its own unique set of challenges. Especially in the IT and supply chain, both areas highlighted in the research as being the most affected by any changes at 30 and 17 per cent respectively.

From a technology perspective, Brexit has been compared to the last great move into the unknown – Y2K, or the Millenium Bug. Today, however, there is no clear end date and time. Businesses are operating in such opaque circumstances that when it comes to their systems and processes, 57 per cent of businesses believe the impact of Brexit to be far more complex to prepare for than The Millennium Bug. These issues are felt more keenly at board level. The C-suite responses to our poll found 68 per cent believe that planning for Brexit is far more challenging than Y2K.

Paving the way to an automated future

Despite the uncertainty, businesses are getting on with the job in hand, looking for the best route through the problems and identifying the solutions that are going to facilitate them doing that. The result being that, like Y2K, Brexit is imparting action on businesses and teams to take stock of their systems. It may not be priority number one for some – and understandably so – but nevertheless, businesses have IT systems that are now 15 to 20 years old. Brexit is forcing the hand of these businesses and driving them to make significant changes. This can only be a good thing in the long term.

This is likely to lead to the automation and digitalisation of a huge swathe of processes. There is now software in place to help businesses with significant data management and process changes such as intelligent automation. This will be fundamental to enabling operations, tech and software teams to test post-Brexit business models and coping with the potential challenges ahead. In fact, our study found that the impact of Brexit will drive organisations to implement automation, with 73 per cent certain, very likely, or likely to adopt automation for new administrative tasks. The potential changes not only mean better and more efficient technology, but potentially more jobs too – over two-thirds of respondents (69 per cent) are considering hiring new staff to deal with the winds of change Brexit is ushering in.

Embrace new ways of doing business

In a way, the UK has never been in such a strong position in terms of being equipped to cope with the immediate climate of change and uncertainty. At the same time, the market is crying out for a fresh approach to ensure that the UK competes on the global stage for the long-term.

In this doom and gloom Brexit era, it’s easy to forget the strength, resilience and adaptability of the UK technology industry. As UK tech leaders we must remember to keep our heads high. Be visionary rather than reactive and be confident in our ability to not only withstand the major challenges we are being faced with, but come out better on the other side.

Dr John Bates



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