UK businesses haven’t started planning for Brexit – research finds

The clear majority of UK businesses (77 %) are concerned about the impact of Brexit, but more than a third of those companies (44%) still haven’t started planning, according to a survey conducted by Anaplan.

The research found that, nine months after one of the most important political votes in UK history and just days before Article 50 is triggered, a large number of UK companies still aren’t ready to handle the significant changes to the country’s economic and political landscape that Brexit is expected to bring.

In fact, many are still relying on outdated, disconnected methods for planning, including pen and paper (58%), email (81%), Microsoft Excel (86%), and Microsoft Word (80%).

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Without the right tools in place that are appropriate for today’s business challenges, these companies will likely struggle to adapt as needed.

Not only that, but they also risk missing out on opportunities that these market changes could offer. Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) business decision-makers say that the decision to leave the EU has positively impacted their organisation already, showing that, for those that get it right, these uncertain times can be a chance to drive improvements or revenues.

Benefits of preparation

By being prepared for Brexit, companies are in a better position to navigate what they consider their biggest obstacles, including losing access to the EU single market (31%), regulatory changes (27%), and exchange rate fluctuations (26%).

With so many unknowns, companies should be looking to harness their data for a clearer understanding of their businesses’ strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

Putting in place a connected planning process that will allow them to be much more flexible in the short term whilst understanding the long-term impacts of Brexit will give them the best chance of succeeding.

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Leadership will also be crucial for companies as they prepare for Brexit and the triggering of Article 50, but UK companies believe leadership is lacking. When it comes to knowing what will happen post-Brexit, a third of respondents stated that they don’t trust anyone (33%) — this alone may explain why levels of concern surrounding the issue are so high.

Only 20% of respondents say they trust their CEO to know what will happen post-Brexit, even though 40% believe that the CEO is responsible for managing the impact of Brexit.

Survey respondents also don’t trust those outside of their organisations to know what will happen post-Brexit, with industry analysts (26 percent), the UK government (26%), and the Bank of England (25%) only trusted by a quarter of those surveyed. Empowering executives to navigate the market is therefore critical to ensuring business leaders can lead effectively.

“We live in a continuously changing world where volatility is the only constant. For those businesses that are prepared to deal with any changes around the corner, this volatility can be a huge opportunity. Unfortunately, there isn’t an approved script for how to cope with situations such as Brexit or the impending triggering of Article 50, but businesses can and should model and plan for multiple future scenarios and be ready course-correct their strategy. Looking at best- and worst-case scenarios to understand business impact will make organisations better prepared to manage and exploit whatever happens tomorrow or in the future,” said Karen Clarke, regional vice president, Northern Europe at Anaplan.

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“Along the same vein, business leaders must equip themselves to pivot quickly in response to any number of outcomes and by taking a connected planning approach, they can get to work immediately. The tools are available, and now, in this time of uncertainty, is when organisations should harness technology to support their business agility.”


This research was conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of Anaplan. Between 21 February and 2 March 2017, 250 business decision makers were surveyed. The sample was drawn from UK organisations of 250 or more employees with a turnover of £50 million or more.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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