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Brexit and digital transformation

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With many companies in the process of implementing digital transformation projects, the uncertainty around what impact Brexit could have on them is understandably something many are worried about. Unknown answers to questions around what changes we will see in the next few months and how companies can maintain a successful Digital Transformation strategy abound. With the landscape unlikely to become any clearer in the coming weeks, having a future-proof digital transformation strategy is more important than ever. 

Digital skills

One of the key things about digital transformation, contrary to popular belief, is not just about upgrading your technology; it is also about upgrading or upskilling staff in key protocols and procedures needed to protect the company. Bringing all staff up to speed on essential changes should be the first step in ensuring a robust strategy.

As part of this, companies need access to the required skill sets to be able to undertake successful digital transformations. Employing highly skilled digital professionals specifically for such projects speeds up transformations, while ensuring consistent quality of work and upskilling of existing staff.

Being able to access this talent after the 29 March will be key to keeping existing digital transformation projects functioning in the new political and economic climate which will follow. However, a concern is that many of those currently working for UK companies on such projects are from European nations. With little concrete certainty that they will be able to stay in the UK and work, there are question marks around whether key digital skills will still be able to be accessed post Brexit.

Data

A recent study by Forbes Insight found that of the top executives interviewed, just 44 percent saw themselves as advanced or leaders in data and analytics, and yet the majority (91%) had seen an increase in revenues since using data and analytics. However, while Brexit should not affect any internal Big Data collection or analysis, it may affect external data gathering from Europe.

The EU offers ‘adequacy agreements’ to countries that conform to their data rules, so that their data can be transferred across borders. Some countries, like New Zealand, have been adjudged to have fully adequate data protection; while the U.S. is only partially adequate so has a separate agreement with the EU. While the UK is a European Union member it doesn’t have to prove its adequacy. But this is about to change.

Assuming the two sides cannot reach an agreement on a withdrawal agreement that specifies personal data can continue to flow uninterrupted, flow of personal information will be affected, according to the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office. The regulator has advised companies to hunt down all data transfers coming into the UK from the EU and make sure they have the ‘appropriate safeguards’ in place to protect them from changes and mitigate risks. 

Agile and uncertainty is the new reality

While the main voices in the UK tech sector came out strongly in favour of remaining in the EU, shock at the result has been replaced by determined optimism. Ensuring that businesses are agile and able to respond to the inevitable changes that will happen as a result of Brexit will contribute towards ensuring existing digital transformation projects do not go off the rails.

Company culture and scrap projects

Engendering a digital culture in the company is as important as the actual technology and systems that are put in place. Digital transformation, when laid bare is not about big data or transformative technology. It is an organisation that espouses a transformative mindset and empowers employees to put the customer experience and company function at the heart of the business plan. When growing a company, having that transformative mindset will be important to negotiate the upcoming uncertain times. This can only truly happen by having every employee’s buy in to this transformative culture.

Scrapping projects to make short term cost cuts will not help with this. However, having the foresight to see that the investment is necessary will result in reaping rewards down the line. Convincing decision makers that this is the correct course of action can be challenging but is critical to the survival of the company. When situations are changing around you, doing nothing is a mistake and this will be amplified as we enter these final weeks pre-Brexit.

Ultimately, digital transformation should be at the top of the agenda for all companies, large and small. Brexit or no Brexit, the importance of having up-to-date and ever improving technology and a well-trained workforce cannot be overstated.  Companies that can respond quickly to new threats and challenges will be the ones that survive. If leadership does not plan for this, companies will likely fall behind and be beaten by competition. With Brexit on the very near horizon, this will only be amplified and sped up.




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