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How to prepare for the UK’s uncertain Brexit terms

Analyst firm Gartner looks at the main business continuity plans that need to be in place

On 29 March 2019, the UK is scheduled to exit the European Union (EU). Recent political turbulence has made one thing clear: in the face of a nebulous and possibly acrimonious break-up, organisations must have contingency plans in place to minimise any potential disruption.

Preparation for Brexit is essential for businesses, and it is recommended that all departments – especially IT, HR, supply chain and legal – follow specific planning steps.

Firstly, a cross-functional Brexit planning working group should be established. In a recent Gartner poll of almost 300 risk, audit and compliance leaders of large enterprises, recognition of the need for a cross-functional approach was evident. Almost half (49%) of the organisations they work for have already implemented such a working group.

A group comprising representatives from the HR, IT, legal, risk management and supply chain teams is highly recommended, because the full impact of Brexit will be felt most acutely in these areas.

Deliberate steps are vital in order to increase efficient enterprise planning, boost confidence in preparedness, and avoid common pitfalls that could undermine results.

So it is necessary to establish committees for specific activities, such as IT and supply chain responses, and then identify unknown exposures by conducting risk assessments and impact analyses, as well as mapping the supply chain.

Gartner also recommends that organisations should routinely check relevant EU and UK government preparedness notices.

Other recommendations include communicating preparation processes to employees and customers, and determining whether more channels or resources are needed to smooth their experiences. Enterprises should also engage with service providers to determine their plans for supporting the organisation during this period.

In addition to overall enterprise planning, it is imperative that the executives in charge of addressing high-impact issue areas take more specific actions, notably in the areas of IT, HR, supply chain and legal. Collaborative and combined actions will help build resilience, which will give organisations the confidence to act, regardless of which scenario unfolds at the end of March.

When establishing a group, avoid selecting members based exclusively on seniority. Instead, employ diverse selection criteria, taking into account the scope of work, the extent of geographic impact and the required level of decision-making.

Arrange meeting schedules based on the urgency of issues and the degree of collaboration required, rather than constricting the group with an arbitrary and inflexible agenda. Clearly outline each group member’s accountability and avoid generalised roles and responsibilities.

Brexit preparation checklist

Analyse Brexit’s business impact
  • Implement multiple stages of analysis testing with the business before arriving at a final report, to provide the requisite depth and relevance.
  • Have an executive sponsor or steering committee act as an objective judge to provide a balanced view of the importance of issues.
  • Involve all functions and external partners to ensure that data and risks are accounted for correctly.
Perform realistic scenario analysis
  • Construct scenarios based on an event, rather than financial sensitivity.
  • Limit the number of variables to a small, high-impact, interconnected group.
  • Narrow the ranges for variables through iterative testing with the business.
Use risk workshops properly
  • Foster new thinking by inviting subject-matter experts, younger, high-potential employees, or others closer to the front line, to ensure diverse perspectives are heard.
  • Determine the structure of workshops, durations and agenda based on purpose, to ensure meetings are focused and efficient.
  • Build conversation management competencies or bring in a third-party facilitator to ensure interactions are as productive as possible.

Peter Aykens is a distinguished vice-president at Gartner

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