The expert view: How can we take advantage of risk in a fast changing European landscape?

The Beast from the East was a wake-up call to Irish businesses ahead of man-made challenges like Brexit and the GDPR, according to Sungard’s Dr Sandra Bell as she introduced a Business Reporter breakfast briefing in Dublin’s Westbury hotel.

She added that most businesses developed a better understanding of the breadth of impact a business continuity plan (BCP) has across a firm, and how such responsibilities need to extend from the top down.

The agenda for the discussion, which featured a range of senior information leaders from major Irish and international businesses, covered the challenges and opportunities that come with risk, how to respond after taking a knock, and how resilience needs to be part of the DNA of a business.

Snow joke…

The nationwide shutdown in Ireland caused by Storm Emma and the Beast from the East alerted senior management to the need to be ready for threats, according to most attendees at the event. Having people throughout the industry discussing business continuity was seen as a valuable upside to the impact caused by the snowstorm that enveloped Ireland in late February and early March.

One attendee pointed to how it was a good way to show his company the role of resilience within the business. Once they were aware of the storm, the BCP went into action and they were largely able to operate without interruption.

There were, however, signs that there could still be improvements to testing resiliency. Having dealt with Hurricane Ophelia last year, one attendee said senior management continued to run the annual field test of the BCP, despite it having been successfully enacted during the hurricane.

But the general mood was positive. Whilst work is still required, we are moving away from box-ticking as a whole when it comes to risk and the overall picture in terms of C-suite buy-in is improving.

GDPR fatigue

Despite the heat being on as the General Data Protection Regulation’s implementation date of 25 May approaches, most of the attendees felt a general sense of fatigue over GDPR already.

The reasons for this were broad. A lack of preparedness across the board was acknowledged by most attendees, but there was disagreement around the need for action. One speaker described the issue as being over-hyped and that the likely fallout would be far milder than advertised.

Elsewhere on the table, the concern was around a lack of initiative within businesses. GDPR responsibility was seen as a box-ticking assignment, or a project to be handed off to one person, rather than something that needed to be treated in an holistic manner.

Hopefully recent challenges from natural occurrences like the Beast from the East have helped change thinking at C-level, as the need for all risk to be viewed as something that affects the wider business becomes better understood.

The upside of risk

Despite the concerns around how businesses were preparing for challenges like GDPR, making resilience and agility an intrinsic part of an organisation was seen as valuable across the table.

Investing in tools that ensure a continuity of service not only gave direct advantages over lesser prepared competitors, according to those present, but also aided in building the brand of a business in the eyes of customers.

It came down to awareness, according to one attendee who – when he took the job – told his higher-ups they were asking him to take on a level of risk that his predecessor would have never accepted. By having eyes open, he said, businesses are better able to respond to potential challenges that arise.

Brexit is about being ready

The uncertainty around Brexit means it’s tough for companies to plan ahead, but most present weren’t too concerned with the possible impact. The assorted flavours of a possible Brexit, from the Mad Max dystopia to something much milder, leave a sufficiently clear roadmap regarding the fundamentals businesses need in place if and when it is eventually enacted.

Dr Bell summarised the need for resilience to be embedded within organisations in order for them to remain agile in a changing and uncertain environment. Recent experiences, she said, had provided important lessons for businesses that can be built on.