Why the pandemic has encouraged a changing view on continuity and resilience: and how this can inform Brexit planning

Published: Tuesday, 15 December 2020 08:33

Ian Crabb explains why he believes that experiences of managing COVID-19 responses is causing many to reflect on their approach to business continuity and resilience and discusses how this can feed into planning for 1st January when the Brexit transition agreement ends.

Back in September, I took part in a webinar on the subject of Brexit, joined by Castellan’s Steve Hodgson, John Bolton, Head of Group Operational resilience at AXA, and James Gow, Senior Manager, Business Continuity at Deloitte.

Firstly, my intention here is not to get political or express any views against, or in support of, Brexit. I just wanted to explore the key messages from the above conversation about the continuity and resilience implications of Brexit.

There are those that think about such events with doom and gloom, and who may judge Brexit as just one more challenge, following on from what has arguably been the most difficult and also enlightening year for the business continuity and resilience profession.

Yes, Brexit has potential for more organizational change coupled with a large dose of long-term uncertainty, and in this context could just be viewed as the next negative, stress inducing, event that tests organizations left fragile after COVID.

But ever the optimist and with my pint glass half full, let me explain…

As a profession, historically, there has been too much of an internal lens when approaching continuity and resilience, ingrained in the way that many articulate impact and priorities. As exhibit A, I cite the way in which many pose questions as part of their programmes, namely:

All of these have an element of internal bias, coming from an organizational perspective - note the use of ‘our’; a common word that we hear.

COVID definitely resulted in disruption to ‘our’ own organizations and definitely required internal effort to make sure we stayed open for business. But the real impact, to the organizations that felt disruptions the most, was to their customers and the markets in which they operate.

Simply stated, customer channels evaporated overnight, markets rapidly altered to reflect change in customer demands, change in customer behaviour and with a need for new or altered channels of engagement. For many consumer businesses it became essential to re-imagine customer engagement to retain brand allegiance and value.

These were not impacts that happened internally, but ones that challenged the very foundations of the business model: who we sell to, how we sell, and how we reach, engage, support and deliver outcomes to our customers.

This disruption brought a new key ingredient to our continuity and resilience programmes, that of a customer centric, external viewpoint in the context of the products and services that the business offers.  

This speaks directly to operational resilience, which, whilst a key focus for financial services due to regulatory demands, is gaining momentum in all sectors as they look to make their programmes more meaningful.

At the same time, COVID enabled a massively enhanced response capability, quickly flexing to the ever-evolving situation and challenging, head on, so many of the assumptions upon which continuity and resilience capability was based.

Because of COVID, UK businesses have probably encountered their maximum ever levels of uncertainty, have introduced more flexible and agile response mechanism’s, and truly understand the connection between customers, channels, and their importance in value creation in their business models.

Against this, those that have endured COVID are probably the strongest in terms of continuity and resilience that they have ever been, have the executive engagement to truly succeed, can effect change, and make decisions at a rate not experienced before, and have fully operationalized their ability to be able to respond to and be ready for anything.

COVID has delivered something positive after all and has left many with a confidence in corporate capability.

With Brexit we will, or will not, have a deal – this is an absolute certainty – concrete outcomes against which we can all prepare. 

Compared to COVID it does not seem so daunting as it did in 2019 does it…

The author

Ian Crabb is Global Head of Strategy, Castellan.

To watch a replay of the webinar referenced by Ian go to 'Coping with a No-Deal Brexit Amid Global Pandemic – A Panel Discussion'