Overcoming the Brexit Collaboration Challenge

by David Goulden, Product Director, Clarizen / 12/11/2018 12:12:50 PM

Despite the uncertainty and daily contradictions by politicians, analysts, and media on the true impact of Brexit, there are at least two certainties: the UK government remains committed to leaving the European Union by March 2019 and businesses across multiple sectors have to prepare to make changes to deal with the aftermath. For many businesses with a large UK base, Brexit will mean moving staff to EU locations and spreading teams collaborating on projects.

Research from consultancy firm EY published earlier this year, confirmed almost a third of banks and asset managers in the City of London were looking at moving staff to locations such as Dublin, Amsterdam and Frankfurt in response to Brexit. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has reported that at least 50 London-based banks have approached Eurozone banking regulators about relocating key services post-Brexit – with German officials claiming that close to 20 banks have already committed to launching new EU hubs in Frankfurt.

A recent UBS survey revealed that, overall, more than a third of Eurozone businesses with operations in the UK plan to move the majority of their operations out of the country. Iconic brands such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Panasonic and media giant Thomson Reuters have already confirmed they will be moving parts of their business from the UK to Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere in the post-Brexit EU.

It’s not just businesses that are looking to shift operations from the UK but international agencies and regulators too: the European Medicine Agency is relocating from London to Amsterdam, while the European Banking Authority is moving from London to Paris.

Disruption

It is becoming increasingly clear that project management teams and other groups within organisations operating in the EU from the UK will be dispersed across more time-zones and locations as Brexit is implemented, with more employees working remotely as commuting and living patterns become more complicated in the wake of Britain’s EU withdrawal.

Connecting a relocated and dispersed workforce that manages ongoing projects is a process that needs to be handled deftly to avoid causing serious disruption to day-to-day activities and long-term objectives. Organisations looking to avoid disruption and retain talented employees need to consider deploying solutions that will foster better communication and collaboration among teams regardless of where they are based – in other words, they need to embrace the right technologies to lessen the blow of Brexit.

The challenges of a far-flung workforce

Having employees working from diverse locations – whether in offices in different geographies, travelling to conferences or visiting clients, or working from home at different times – is a challenge many international businesses are already grappling with. Most are still striving to overcome the barriers that widespread remote working presents to effective communication and collaboration. Clarizen’s own research has shown that some of the most prevalent issues workers struggle with when working remotely include:

·     Communication issues with colleagues

·     Struggling to remain efficient

·     Limited access to current files and data

·     Difficulties in prioritising work

Ensuring that staff are equipped to deal with these issues even before Brexit takes place is critical – otherwise, the barriers they present to effective collaboration, productivity and business agility will be exacerbated. Indeed, the knock-on effect could be that more projects stall or even fail as resource planning, task management, reporting and the ability to hit deadlines all are impacted.

Collaborating across multiple locations

It is evident that a major driver of project success in in a post-Brexit world involves equipping employees with the tools necessary to ensure smooth collaboration between dispersed teams while maximizing productivity.

Recent global research from Clarizen showed that 73% of the companies surveyed require a technology platform that enables them to easily bridge geographical barriers and time zones to boost communication and coordination among employees. Another Clarizen survey of project managers revealed that over 60% say their organisation is not fully effective at enabling team members across different departments or locations to communicate or collaborate with each other.

A good starting point for enabling greater cooperation is to encourage buy-in from management for an approach that fosters real-time collaboration across locations and time zones. The adoption of a cloud-based project portfolio management tool that enables teams to coordinate workflow, track progress, align goals, allocate budget and meet deadlines regardless of where they are is beneficial at the best of times – but will be critical to handling the disruption of Brexit .

Facing communication overload

Organisations have to be careful, however, to choose the right collaborative tool as they prepare to tackle Brexit disruption. Often businesses fall into the trap of choosing social media apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook to improve teamwork in the belief they will streamline communications and minimise long email chains, which can result in key information being missed, causing delays and confusion. Other businesses turn to specialist communication apps. The Clarizen survey showed that, in the past year, companies deployed one or more of the following business communication apps to improve productivity: Skype (39%), Microsoft Teams (14%), Google Hangouts (8%) and Slack (7%).  

Unfortunately, all of these applications have tended to complicate and confuse lines of communication and, in fact, steer staff away from focused business discussions. Use of these apps has in many cases led to ‘communication overload’ – a stream of unnecessary information, constant interruptions and push notifications and become a forum for social chat – even employee complaints – rather than a means of quickly updating teams on projects to improve collaboration.

The problem is the conversations on pure communication apps are not in context with business tasks, priorities, milestones, resourcing issues and objectives. The Clarizen research indicates that, in the end, apps that fail to directly link communication to business activities, aims and status updates actually hamper collaboration and efficiency. The survey showed that, despite taking steps to improve communication among employees, 81% of companies still lacked a way to keep projects on track and provide management oversight – and only 16% said productivity levels were ‘excellent’ – while a near quarter said they were ‘just OK’ or ‘we need help’. In fact, 70% admitted they need to go beyond creating additional lines of communication and instead find a way to facilitate better collaboration.

Bringing together dispersed teams

The underlying challenge for many companies facing disruption due to Brexit is to find ways to ensure more effective collaboration among scattered teams. The steps they can take to do that include:

·     Providing a communication tool that ties workplace tasks to business functions and improves the coordination of workflow

·     Integrating existing tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams with a more comprehensive collaborative platform that ensures communications align with tasks, deadlines, budgets and project up-date

·     Employing an end-to-end communication tool that provides full visibility across the full range of key deliverables, so teams can keep up-to-date and focused, while avoiding unnecessary catch-up emails, calls or meetings

·     Adopting a system that automates project checkpoints and updates, so teams spend less time following-up on and assessing what is going on and more time completing actual work

·     Deploying a collaborative platform that updates information in real time and provides holistic view of progress on actions, resources, milestones and key deliverables

The value being prepared

Even if many larger enterprises are prepared for the disruption of Brexit, the fact remains that, with the final details of the UK’s withdrawal are still being hammered out so close to the withdrawal date, many organisations will still have to deal with unexpected factors. Having teams already set up to collaborate efficiently will ease the burden of post-Brexit reorganisation and scrambling.

If organisations are not yet prepared for Brexit, then they need to move fast to put in place the tools that will allow them to weather the storm. In reality, Brexit only poses a real threat to successful collaboration if enterprises do not prepare for it. With the right approach to collaboration across geographies and the technology to back it, businesses can overcome many of the issues thrown up by Brexit and even enhance productivity and business agility. In short, businesses need both the strategic will and the enabling technology to guarantee they can continue to collaborate effectively and grow during and after any Brexit-driven transition. 

About Clarizen

Clarizen delivers secure, cloud-based collaborative work management solutions built on the vision of business agility. Clarizen’s PPM solution combines cross-company project management with configurable workflow automation. Discussions, tasks, projects and portfolios are all accessible from Clarizen’s scalable enterprise platform. Internal and external stakeholders both gain easy access to a single source of information to improve work execution, collaborate in-context, optimize resources and respond faster. Clarizen is a leader in Forrester’s Enterprise Collaborative Work Management report and is a two-time leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud-Based IT Project and Portfolio Management. To learn more, visit clarizen.com

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