Why Brexit and Covid-19 will dictate business transformation in 2021

Shaun Lynn, CEO of Agilitas, explains how businesses can prepare for a successful 2021.

It is fair to say that 2020 will prove to be one of the most financially turbulent on record, especially for the UK. Not only have British companies faced unparalleled disruption in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, but we’re now also receiving a timely reminder that Britain’s economy might not be prepared for the ramifications of Brexit. The combined impact of Brexit and Covid-19 could result in logistical conundrums and loss of momentum at best and disrupted supply chains and loss of business at worst.

Regardless of where people stand on Brexit and Covid-19 from a political standpoint, all sides cannot deny that these two events have the power to single-handedly reshape the way we do business.

Most business leaders have long been cautiously observing the developments of Brexit, a catalyst of change four years in the making, as issues over trade and free movement would routinely be speculated upon by analysts, commentators and of course politicians, in a bid to determine to what extent companies would have to readjust their current business models. This is to ensure alignment with new undefined regulations.

The abrupt arrival of Covid-19 has only exacerbated these uncertainties further, as countless industries continue to struggle to adjust to a new status quo where social distancing, remote working and nationwide lockdowns have become the new norm.

Breaking the mould

There is no doubt that countless business owners currently have a red circle around the 31st December in their 2020 calendar, which will mark the end of the Brexit transition period. No matter the company size or sector, there is no disputing that in order for firms to be better prepared for the uncertainty ahead, they will need to make a significant investment in business transformation, starting from IT systems and data processes. Taking a holistic look at their current IT set-up and infrastructure can be crucial in allowing company owners to assess what additional requirements are necessary to ensure that every department in the business – sales, customs, logistics – is taking the right measures to address the challenges ahead.

This tech-focused approach to business management is not exactly breaking new ground. Over the past decade, technology has been playing an increasingly major role in UK businesses, a trend that has only been accelerated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as more firms have embraced remote working, cloud migration and assorted digital tools to help cope with the status quo. Subverting tried and tested business models to allow for a more nimble, de-centralised way of working was always going to be inevitable to be able to adapt to a Covid-dominated reality, but this ad hoc flexibility might just be what companies need to embrace if they are to also cope with the challenges posed by Brexit.

Time to transform

Companies have been preparing for our departure from the EU for the past few years and the business landscape was already experiencing significant change long before the coronavirus pandemic began impacting our day-to-day lives in 2020. In that respect, Brexit and Covid-19 will not be the sole catalysts of change in 2021, but they certainly will have played their part in expediting it.

As we venture further into the 21st century, we are becoming an increasingly fast-moving, interconnected society, which is forcing more and more companies to seriously consider implementing business transformation strategies that enable them to stay agile and competitive. Right now it’s looking like smaller firms will have a key advantage thanks to their ability to pivot and embrace new technologies quicker than larger, more layered corporations, although the latter will have the financial means to be able to invest in more radical transformation strategies.

Either way, with the pandemic still ongoing and agreement deals yet to be finalised, it is still too early to determine what the outcomes will be. What can be said is that the events of 2020 have proven to be an unprecedented challenge for businesses across the board. It will be interesting to see what we will have learnt from them by the end of 2021.

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