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Brexit: What now for IT?

James Newson, director at Sansom IT


Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Winston Churchill


The votes have been cast and decision made. Democracy at its best even if the decision is not what most businesses wanted. It’s now about what we do next to make sure we prosper in an uncertain and volatile market.


In my mind the internal wrangling at Westminster is a side show in the fact that it won’t stop any time soon. As soon as the leadership arm-wrestling is over, the arm-wrestling over Article 50 begins, and once invoked two years of negotiation and more arm-wrestling. Great if you enjoy parliament TV, not so good if you’re charged with the future of a business and those who work for it.


We will be stuck with a degree of un-certainty for some time. In theory, however, nothing has actually changed yet. So what volume of uncertainty can there reasonably be out there? The result was a shock but common sense suggests the general hysteria should calm down in the near future. It’s surely in Britain’s and the EU’s best interests to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement that facilities trade and cooperation in key areas. It would be a huge blow to both economies should we wind back the clock 40 years, however, nothing can be ruled out at this point. 


So how do we adjust our IT strategies to protect our organisations and businesses from uncertainty?


First of all, you need an IT strategy. I know this sounds cheap, however, I see a lot of customers without one. And to be clear just saying “cloud” or “hyper-convergence” is not a strategy. I would advise those in positions of responsibility to lock yourself away and draft/ look at your strategy and start thinking how Brexit and a sustained period of uncertainty affects it.  Clarity of thinking is going to be key over the next few years and a good strategy aligned to business objectives will only assist.


Are large Capex investments in your best interests at the moment? It depends what alternative options are available and what the investment is for. If you are investing in development or infrastructure that is core to your business activity and/ or will supply a point of differentiation, then it should be considered.  The assumption is the outcome will drive efficiencies and revenue.


If, however, you are replacing a legacy infrastructure and upgrading your messaging servers, it’s time to stop and think about the alternatives! What’s the point of parting with a large capex investment if there is no possibility of a financial benefit? In an uncertain time, your business could easily shrink rather than grow, and then the investment is essentially wasted.  IT infrastructure and associated services like backup etc. are neither core to business activity nor supply no point of differentiation for most organisations. The business case to invest in these areas has to be rock solid because the opex alternatives offer a much more sustainable commercial model.


If your business is using IT service providers or hosting infrastructure on the continent, there should be plenty of time before you need to consider hitting the eject button.  Depending, however, on the nature of the services and their value to the business, you need some sort of exit plan. Waiting for the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be risky if things turn sour.  Also there are significant complexities and risks in large scale migrations so the more time you commit now the better the outcome.

There may be the need to renegotiate existing contracts should legislation change in key areas such as data residency and protection. So make sure you understand what your current commercial commitments are. Remember it’s the businesses responsibility as the data controller to know where the data is and that its being processed correctly. So if you don’t know what data is where or the ins and outs of relationship with a European based third party, get on top of it. It’s the known unknowns that will trip you up just as hard as the unknown unknowns. Make sense?


Lastly, it’s time to rally to the cause. Britain has made its decision, it’s now up to us to make that decision the best for everyone. Working smarter and innovating will get us through what is sure to be a turbulent next few years.


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