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5 Steps for Planning Business Success in an Uncertain World

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Article 50 has been triggered, Brexit has well and truly begun. While the European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, Michael Barnier, would like negotiations to be completed within 18 months, the market characterised by economic and political uncertainty looks set to continue long into the future. So how should businesses behave? Michael Gould, CTO and Founder of Anaplan, sets out a five point guide to making the most of your business in such scenarios.

With all this in mind, businesses need to ensure that they are prepared for every eventuality. We’ve already seen shifts in exchange rates and with knock on effects such as price rises and likely regulatory and even workforce changes, there are a host of factors which businesses should already have on their agenda as having the potential to impact their organisations. With Brexit now in full swing, here are my top five tips for wrestling business success from the jaws of economic uncertainty.

  1. Stop Waiting

With so many politicians, academics and economists each throwing in their two cents on Brexit it can be hard find any clarity around the real outcomes of Brexit. A recent survey by the Bank of England has shown a modest pick-up in UK investment, but businesses are still holding off on some longer-term investment due to a lack of visibility around future trading relationships. Whilst it’s tempting to hold fire on any serious decisions and adopt a ‘wait and see approach’, it could result in falling behind competitors and losing market share.

Staggeringly, our research revealed that two-fifths of businesses are yet to begin planning for Brexit. Avoid having to play catch up: take the time to gain an understanding of all the potential outcomes of Brexit and start from there. For example, businesses could use planning tools to simulate the impact of fluctuating exchange rates, or plan for potential scenarios on trade deals and tariffs. Another option is to explore different models of economic growth. A sensitivity analysis can then be run based on these projections, with the aim of mitigating risk and helping to plan for making the most of any opportunities.

  1. Spot the opportunity

There’s no denying that the Brexit vote has brought an unprecedented level of uncertainty to the UK’s economy, but there are some forward-thinking businesses that have seen change as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage, and adapt their services for changing consumer requirements. In fact, our research shows nearly one in three (29%) business decision makers say that the choice to leave the EU has already positively impacted their organisation. These uncertain times can be a chance to drive operational improvements or increased revenues.

The key is to identify the opportunities early. Once you understand where the openings are, success will emanate from effective planning. This means having a real-time view of the business and the market as a whole, and being able to react quickly to the slightest change. A good mix of teamwork and the right technology are vital here.

  1. Take Control

To begin with, the success or failure of this transition will come down to the quality of leadership. Informed and confident business leaders will help engender a more positive attitude across the organisation. Our research found that many employees (40%) believe that knowledge and guidance should come from the CEO. But there’s a lack of faith: only 20% of respondents actually trust their leaders to provide this expertise. An effective leader inspires in times of change and uncertainty. Those at the helm of the organisation must seize the moment, take control of the situation, and crucially, be seen to be doing so by their employees.

  1. Collaborate

Strong leadership from the top is vital for any business strategy, but collaboration throughout the planning cycle is just as important. Involving employees from different teams, disciplines and levels across the organisation will bring new ideas to the table, ensure everyone is bought into the strategy, and deliver a more robust approach moving forward. In uncertain times employees will value open communication and inclusiveness even more.

  1. Adopt a Data-Driven Approach

While strong leadership and collaboration are both crucial to business success, companies must have the correct tools in place to take action, or they will struggle to adapt. With this in mind, it is surprising to see that so many British businesses are still relying on technologies that were developed over 30 years ago to plan in today’s market: pen and paper (58%), email (81%), Excel (86%) and Word (80%), to name a few. They simply are not fit for purpose anymore.

The data that a business produces has to be seen as one of its most valued assets. Organisations need to take full advantage of it and use the insight to make the most relevant and informed decisions. In such a volatile market, real-time data is invaluable. For instance, managers can use their company’s data to accurately simulate the potential outcomes of any decision, and forecast the possible impact.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a step-by-step guide or a defined roadmap for what the world will look like post-Brexit. However, businesses can make sure that they are ready for every outcome, modelling and planning for all possible futures. Organisational and cultural factors will play their part in ensuring that businesses are making the most informed decisions. But, those that also take a data-driven approach with the latest technologies will be a step ahead, and ready to take advantage of every opportunity in a dynamic and shifting economic market.

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