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This week Charlie looks at Brexit and the role of the business continuity manager.

At lunchtime yesterday, I asked everyone in the office whether there was a specific subject I should be writing this bulletin on. There weren’t any sensible suggestions this week! Whilst packing up to go home, I put the radio on and it became clear what I should talk about; contingency planning for a Brexit ‘no deal’.

As well as watching the news and listening to the radio, I thought I would read some of the government guidance on the subject. So, I headed to the gov.uk website and started to read the various guidance available on ‘How to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal’. One of the very first sentences of the section ‘Trading with the EU if there’s no Brexit deal’ caught my eye; ‘Businesses should consider how a ‘no deal’ scenario could affect them and may want to begin taking steps to mitigate against such a risk, however unlikely’. 

After reading the guidance, I came away with a few thoughts. For those who have been exporting to the EU and nowhere else, a ‘no deal’ would mean:

  • Possibly new software to implement to enable exporting to the EU;
  • Registering for an UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number;
  • Hiring a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider. 

Learning new procedures and purchasing, implementing and training staff to use new software all take time. Also, if your organisation is going to use specialist export companies at the same time everyone else in the market is trying to do so, there may not be the capacity to accommodate all the different organisations wanting to use their services.

Within each of my bulletins, I like to try to tell you something you don’t know or look at a problem from a different perspective. However, after reading the Brexit guidance, I am not sure how much more advice I can add on top of the government’s guidance. There is also not much point in making you aware of the threat, as you would have to try very hard to avoid being reminded of the threat and the suggested preparation measures.

Instead, I thought I would address the following question: When the government provides information about a threat and the measures which we as citizens or as businesses are expected to take, what is the role of the business continuity manager?

I think we have a number of roles and this can add value to our organisation’s level of resilience. Brexit has been a major part of all news channels for the last couple of years and it has been hard to miss that there is a possible risk of a “no deal’. Other campaigns including preparing for winter driving with advice such as carrying a spade, food and warm clothing happen every year. We tend to forget and start to ignore these kinds of campaigns, in the same way we have a habit of ignoring airline safety briefs. So, I think the first role is to make sure that we don’t get blasé about government campaigns, by promoting them internally and tailoring them to our own organisation’s requirements.

The second role is to anticipate some of the risks and use horizon scanning to make your organisation aware of them before other organisations are. Whilst the government are only telling us about the consequences of a ‘no deal’ now, some organisations have been working on this for several months. This means where resources are reduced, they are in a position to secure them before there is a mad scramble for everyone wanting a limited resource or implementing new software, which as I mentioned above, takes time to implement.

Professionals like ourselves can help interpret the risk of a certain threat occurring and quantify the risk to our organisation. The terrorist threat in London is high in likelihood, but the impact on a specific organisation is very low. Unlike the IRA, who were trying to cause massive disruption to businesses, today’s terrorists are interested in targeting groups of people. Your organisation would have to be very unlucky to have a number of employees directly impacted by a terrorist attack. Therefore, our efforts can be the education of staff and what to do if they are caught up in an attack, as well as how to account for all staff if an attack takes place.

If nobody is doing anything about Brexit planning in your organisation, I suggest you make top management aware they need to start a contingency plan. Otherwise, make your services available to help them develop the contingency plans and plan how they might configure the organisation to deal with ‘no deal’ should it occur.

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