Peering into Pandora's Box

In the Autumn of 2016 we surveyed 200 UK decision-makers in small-to-medium sized businesses. They told us decision-making has become a lot tougher post-Brexit. A state of paralysis is curtailing their ability to make confident choices. 71% say the government has done nothing to allay their concerns regarding uncertainty around Brexit. The problem is, uncertainty breeds indecision and according to the 19th century British stateman, George Canning “Indecision and delays are the parents of failure”.

The repercussions of Brexit are still largely unknown. We don’t yet have a date for when the government will trigger Article 50 (or even the guarantee that the government can initiate a twoyear withdrawal without parliamentary approval and a vote from MPs, following a High Court ruling).

Nor will we know what the outcome of the negotiations will be for some time to come. We have a new Prime Minister whose inscrutability is on the one hand strengthening Britain’s hand in the negotiations, and on the other, alienating a population in desperate need of reassurance.

In reality, there’s no guarantee enshrined in law that the UK will find the resulting deal acceptable. The EU oversees the negotiating timetable and the European Parliament has the power of veto over a continuity deal or future free trade deal.

In short, everything’s up for grabs – including our hitherto ‘special relationship’ with the United States. When Donald Trump was elected the leader of the free world on 8th November, a new wave of uncertainty crashed ashore. Internet searches for ‘end of the world’ spiked.

Fortunately, apocalyptic fears have largely been replaced with a ‘watch and see’ mentality, but as Canning implied about excessive delays – inertia is not good for the economy.

This paper will explore how the Brexit decision is impacting business’s IT strategies, with a focus on data sovereignty. On the face of it, this sounds like a niche subject. But technology, and the proliferation of data, is now an economic bellwether. In the Internet age, most companies have the ability to morph into a software company. For instance, automotive companies are dabbling in connected vehicles, retail companies are developing sensor-enabled merchandise and manufacturers are majoring in predictive maintenance.

Technology drives businesses forward and enables innovation – so if there’s a chink in the chain and businesses aren’t progressing their IT strategy, we have a problem. Fortunately, the UK is a nation of pragmatists. We have the most flexible workforce in Europe (with a high degree of part-time workers) and an innate ability to roll with the punches and move on. Our adaptability will no doubt lead to a more self-sufficient ‘Made in Britain’ infrastructure and new protections to safeguard our people, property and resources.

I should caveat that we’ve made numerous speculations based on what sort of Brexit we might have. We could be facing an amicable annulment or messy divorce with competing custody battles over company data flows. Preparation for either outcome is key.

We hope you find the report, downloadable below, a helpful and informative read as you ready your business for the changing political, economic and commercial environment.

Jack Bedell-Pearce, Managing Director, 4D

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