Ready or Not? Deal-or-no-Deal

Managing supply chains across the UK and EU has been relatively straight forward with many UK/EU-based companies creating strong supplier relationships and benefiting from no tariffs, low costs, seamless border-crossings, and limited border delays.

Until December 31st that is.

The UKs vote to leave the EU is expected to heavily impact supply chains across the country. For years, the UK and EU have enjoyed free movement of labour, goods, and services secured by preferential trade agreements. Come 31st December 2020, the UK will leave the EU with either a trade deal, or ‘no deal’. For businesses reliant on EU import/exports, there will be some disruption to the efficiency and cost effectiveness of supply chains. The length and scale of disruption is wholly dependant on current negotiations …

This is not ‘new news’ however, and many businesses have spent time over the last four years assessing the likely impact of Brexit. But this year’s COVID19 pandemic has dealt an unprecedented blow to the economy causing major disruption to both supply chains, and Brexit preparations across businesses in the UK. COVID19 has pushed back Brexit planning and used valuable cash and inventory earmarked for the necessary adaptations for organisations to simply survive. On the upside, the pandemic has validated the importance of the supply chain to the executive management.

More than ever, our Clients’ are aware of the need for a resilient and flexible supply chain to cope with the challenges Brexit is going to bring, including:

  • Delays: longer lead times could affect service levels and margins, more so for goods with short shelf lives. The emphasis on planning/inventory levels, and supplier selection is going to be paramount to keep the flow of goods moving.
  • Customs & Tariffs: businesses are likely to incur new costs from duties on goods entering and leaving the UK and moving through Europe. Depending on where the goods are travelling, these costs will determine whether the supply chain is viable.
  • Systems: new trading relationships will more than likely encounter new master data being used in ERP/MRP systems. Brexit would require a review of all enterprise systems to reflect the changes in supply chain processes. It would therefore be imperative for companies to increase the control of pre-Brexit processes to mitigate the supply chain risk.
  • Talent: Brexit would likely present an array of challenges that will require a new set of capabilities and skills, some of which will include analytical and high-level forecasting capabilities and others with transformation and change management experience. Ensuring the right mix of people are in place will allow businesses to be more agile and react quicker to unexpected issues.

The future recovery of the supply chain sector is therefore reliant largely on organisations preparing for further volatility as year-end approaches. Companies must plan for major disruptions to their supply chains, review existing international trade agreements, customs/tariff implications on potential trade deals, and identify and prioritise key business interruption risks.

In all this, having the right talent on board is key. With budgets tight and hiring freezes instigated, many organisations have taken some tough decisions early on resulting in leaner, more streamlined, and reorganised teams. Whilst on one level this may have helped right-sized the business and introduced short-term cost-savings, there will be inevitable skill gaps and bandwidth issues which may hamper an ability to retain key staff, as well as tackle the looming challenges.

One answer may lie in appointing expert, experienced short-term Interim Managers to add bandwidth and expertise. Engaged at short notice and working to pre-agreed objectives and outcomes, Interim Managers are an instant solution to challenges such as those outlined above.

Bespoke Talent Assessment/Development and Mapping/Benchmarking Programmes are a proactive and proven way to quickly evaluate internal talent, benchmark them against the future needs of the business. Our Assessment & Development Practice can assess, produce and deliver individual development plans based on the assessment output. Clients can then draw up a development investment plan and timeline to get their business and people ‘future-fit’. Alternatively, where there are recognisable skills or experience gaps, a well-evidenced business case can be made to make staff upgrades. These can be managed by our Executive Search Practice.

Finally, our Research & Insight function, can benchmark competitors helping clients understand how their top talent compares. Knowing who the competing talent is, how much it costs, and its susceptibility to a move gives our clients competitive edge.  Being aware of top external talent enables us to build talent pools for clients who can then act proactively when it comes to bringing new talent into the business.

In short, our proactive approach helps get our clients ‘match-fit’ for the future and increasing their chances of success in 2021.

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss your specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Ali Jafri on +44 (0) 7730 090 757 or via for an initial confidential discussion.

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Speed Read: Tips on Transformation when WFH

Since lockdown in March, many organisations have gone through the mobilise and stabilise phases and are now looking to implement some form of normality for day to day working. Alongside this, significant programmes of change which were put on hold have been rescoped and restarted, taking account of new platform and technology changes.

The most significant shift from 12 months ago to the current day is the change to remote working, and the challenges of managing teams in the middle of unprecedented personal upheaval. This requires a new way of thinking and engaging across several traditional areas. In this article we outline some of the key areas around the Target Operating Model, together with some ideas and suggestions on how to maximise team performance.


Ensure you know the people in the team, and any challenges they may be facing. Focus on the team dynamic (“we are all truly in this together”). Allow for everyone to get engaged on remote calls and keep an eye out for those getting left behind. In addition to setting direction and helping employees work effectively, managers should focus on energizing the team and providing reassurance. Encourage formal and informal methods of engagement and ensure everyone understands the goals ahead.

Remember, this is a stressful time. Communicate to colleagues authentically and from a human perspective. Ensure this is hard wired into the culture of your communication.


In times of difficulty, process can become a rock for people to lean on. Setting up regular progress meetings, regular one-to-ones, and establishing frameworks and expectations can assist the team through some of the ambiguity of the wider situation. Leaders must hold themselves accountable for ensuring this is not a ‘flash in the pan’, but the new way of working. Consistency of process will help those less experienced members of team feel more secure in their role.

Review support processes such as communication and training to ensure they are fit for purpose, and to provide more information and support to employees, so they are better equipped to adopt new ways of working.


By this stage, mobilising the technology to get colleagues effectively working from home has probably been achieved. However, development of the remote working experience needs to continue through the pandemic and beyond, as the chances of returning to a pre-COVID physical working model are minimal. As you stabilize your collaboration and technical tools, incorporate organisational change into the planning, always from the perspective of the employee experience.

Technology also plays a major part in project delivery. Complete transparency on project milestones and around the PMO ensures the team are all pulling in the right direction. Utilising file sharing and other software tools ensures that all interested stakeholders are involved in collaboration and decision making.


Setting teams up to succeed is an imperative. A great deal of thought needs to go into the structure of programme teams. In addition, we have all seen how zoom calls with 20+ people on can be ineffective and sometimes even counterproductive. Managers should consider setting up smaller, more focussed mandated teams with which have wider responsibilities. Consider if Agile working is effective in your organisation given the new remote working constraints – is change control adversely effected? Ultimately, clarity and positive engagement rather than uncontrolled Teams calls will pay significant dividends.

In summary, a considered approach and time taken at the start of the programme is time well spent. Ensuring you are getting the best out of your team in these challenging times is essential, as not only will you deliver your programmes successfully, but also retain the engagement and loyalty of your team.

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Mike Davies via for an initial confidential discussion.

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From CFO to NED

For many CFOs, becoming a non-executive director (“NED”) a logical career ‘next step’. However, before embarking on this journey, careful consideration should be taken. Being an effective NED can involve just as much work outside the boardroom as within it. During a crisis that time commitment can escalate very quickly as many NEDs will attest to this year.

Why do CFOs want to become NEDs?

Despite the challenges, a significant number of CFOs do choose to further develop their careers by taking on an NED role. From our experience, the reasons are varied and include:

  • Gaining new insights into other sectors and businesses
  • Understanding how different boards function
  • Gaining new boardroom skills and experiences
  • Being able to sit on several boards and building a portfolio of NED roles

However, while CFOs cite all the above (and more), the overwhelming majority of CFOs say the underlying driver is the ability to play an influential role in the future direction of a company.

What do companies look for in an NED?

When appointing an NED, the Board and Nominations Committee will already have a defined set of skills they want on their board so will be looking for very particular skillsets, whether it be specific global experience, specific sector knowledge, specific functional expertise etc.

Furthermore, they are likely to be looking to appoint someone who:

  • Is well respected in their industry, credible, and with a proven track record of relevant achievements
  • Is reflective, considered, and capable of listening, probing, and challenges constructively
  • Has an independence of mind, but understands the need for/accepts collective responsibility
  • Understands the boundaries of Executive and Non-Executive roles.

The Interview process

While the skillset will define whether you pass through long- and short-list stages, once that gets you in front of the clients’ panel, it is all about personality, character, and cultural fit. Ethics are also very important and getting a sense of the candidate’s ethical position on a range of situations is a good indication of whether they will “fit” in culturally with the Board and organisation.

Most chairmen want genuine diversity in thought and opinion on their boards to avoid “group-think”.  Too much similarity in terms of background or experience can lead to the group moving as one along well-worn tracks, rather than exploring more radical/potentially better solutions. At the same time, the right chemistry amongst the board members is required to achieve a productive outcome.

The interview process for NED roles tends to be very thorough and can take a long time. Gone are the days of the Chairman picking an NED and the process is over. You may be interviewed by the whole board. Finally, remember that the interview process is a two-way street – you are also interviewing them.

Before accepting an appointment

Before accepting an NED role, due diligence is critical. You will already have gained insight into the organisation, its people, and culture through the interview process. But it is important to deepen your research at offer stage. Your checklist should include the following:

  • Read as much as possible in annual reports, the company website, press coverage and analyst and rating agency reports
  • Talk to the company’s auditors, bankers, lawyers and headhunters
  • Try to meet the members of the board who have not been part of the interview process. Work out key relationships, styles, and values
  • Is there an effective and constructive relationship between the CEO and chair?
  • Ask for dates of board meetings and the year-end and check for any timetable conflicts. Find out the year-end to avoid/be prepared for a heavier workload at certain times of the year.

Navigating your way around the boardroom

When it comes to starting a new NED role, you must be able to demonstrate that you know the difference between an executive role and a non-executive role. Showing the ability to step away from an executive mind-set will stand you in good stead with the rest of the board, building your credibility and their confidence in you.

As a new NED, the induction process is crucially important to understanding the ins and outs of the organisation and building relationships. Spending time with other board members, going on site visits, meeting the lawyers, understanding the company’s strategy, and simple things like learning the company’s jargon and acronyms all help to build a up picture and settle into the role.

To maximise your influence in the boardroom, as with any team, it comes down to knowing the personalities and values of fellow board members. It is important to observe and learn from how individuals on the board interact with each other and adapt your style accordingly. It is salient to challenge and ask questions, but this needs to be done in a manner that retains a positive atmosphere in the boardroom.

How do you find the right balance?

Many CFOs feel like the Audit Committee and the Auditor are working against them. However, when CFOs become an Audit Committee Chair it becomes clear that the objectives of the Executive, Audit Committee, and Auditor are all aligned. Having this insight helps individuals prioritise and manage their responsibilities in both their CFO and NED roles.

It is a fact that there will be increased demands and occasional conflict in managing your time between roles, but to turn that on its head, it is also an opportunity for you to delegate some of your CFO tasks to your team more effectively. Giving your team more responsibility allows them to step up and allows you to focus on the most important tasks, also freeing up time to do your NED role.

A supportive Chairman and CEO should see you securing an NED role as an opportunity for you to bring back your learnings from your NED role into your CFO role. This said, there must be high degrees of trust between you, your team and your Chairman and CEO for this to work most effectively. There also needs to be an acknowledgement that your executive role takes precedence over your non-executive role so being able to find the right balance, and giving the right assurances to management that your CFO role is well under control is critical.

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Hickmore, Group Managing Director, via  or Wayne Poulton, Director, via for an initial confidential discussion.

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Future-Fit Are your team and organisation ready?

It does not take a genius to realise that the UK consumer market is in a state of upheaval. Whilst the main factor may be COVID, in some cases the pandemic merely exacerbated existing challenging conditions. The triple whammy however comes with BREXIT and the many unknowns that may bring. All of this has impacted the consumer industry in multiple ways. Yet despite the challenges, we are seeing many clients showing significant resilience as they look to the future and plan ahead.

Since the March lockdown we have been working with existing and new clients helping them through 2020, whilst getting them ‘future-fit’ for next year. With budgets tight and hiring freezes instigated, many organisations have had to look internally, reviewing/assessing their talent internal for potential. Having taken some tough decisions early on, many have been left with leaner, more streamlined, and reorganised teams. Whilst on one level this may have right-sized the business and introduced short-term cost-savings, there will be inevitable skill gaps and bandwidth issues which may hamper an ability to retain key staff, as well as grow, acquire, and build.  So as clients look ahead and think about growth and staff retention our clients are asking us, “How can, and how do, we create and retain a strong talent base that feels engaged and invested in”

The answer is a bespoke Talent Assessment/Development and Mapping/Benchmarking Programme. Developed in conjunction with our Leadership Consulting and Research & Insight teams, these integrated programmes allow clients to evaluate their internal talent, benchmark them against the future needs of the business, and then draw up individual development plans. This helps clients draw up a development investment plan and/or build a business case to make staff upgrades.  Simultaneously, our Research & Insight function, will benchmark the competition helping clients understand who their top talent is, how it compares. and how they organise themselves.  As our clients prepare to grow, being aware of top external talent enables them to build a talent pool and act proactively when it comes to bringing new talent into their business. In short, our proactive approach gives our clients competitive edge.

This approach has helped businesses understand the importance of driving the Internal Talent Agenda even – and especially – during times of crisis. By getting ‘match-fit’ for the future they increase their chances of not just surviving in 2020 but thriving in 2021!

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact James Peskett via for an initial confidential discussion.

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Digital delivers a silver lining, Trends for 2021 and beyond

2020 has delivered a seismic shift in the way we live and work. The pace of change, and the price of not changing fast enough, has never been more evident. There is no doubt that the most successful companies had already aligned their digital and corporate strategies before the pandemic meaning they were faster to adapt, prioritising innovative solutions and investing in new digital technologies.

According to a new survey by McKinsey “Covid-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point and transformed business forever”. The report goes on to say that, “Among the biggest differences between the successful companies and all others is talent, the use of cutting-edge technologies, and a range of other capabilities. A related imperative for success is having a culture that encourages experimentation and acting early.”

As we look ahead to a new year, 2021 will be an opportunity to build a positive legacy from the scale of corporate, social, and technological knowledge gained in 2020.

Digital led businesses by their nature are future-focused, innovative, and agile in both development and delivery. Traditional businesses that do not embrace digital transformation are finding challenger brands disrupting their industries and forcing transition from the inside out. With Amazon resetting customer expectations on delivery, and Monzo and Starling Bank successfully reinventing the consumer banking journey, traditional businesses are racing to catch up.

If 2020 was about widespread digital disruption and adoption, 2021 will be about building on that capability to drive further innovation and more intuitive solutions. The intrinsic value of enhanced digital capability is clear, and a new level of strategic importance has been established. Based on our experiences, Norman Broadbent has identified five key elements to enhanced digital capability in the year ahead:

Cloud Migration

A Cisco study confirmed that cloud traffic would represent 95% of total data centre traffic by 2021. The study also identified that the demand was driven by both consumer and business applications, “Consumers favour cloud for streaming video, social networking, and Internet search. Business users favour cloud for ERP, greater collaboration, analytics, and other digital enterprise applications – these are all leading growth areas.”

Cloud offers greater agility and flexibility which supports faster innovation, but Covid-19 forced the migration most were expecting over the next 2/3 years to happen in less than a month. According to Accenture, “As an on-demand, self-service environment, cloud is now vital to achieving end-to-end digital transformation. Now, more than ever, cloud is vital to help businesses reopen, reinvent, and outmanoeuvre uncertainty.” Cloud-based services are increasingly favoured for supporting innovation in data insight as cloud-based data lakes are more suited to the complex deep learning required for AI and machine learning applications.

Amazon Web Servers (AWS) were the first to launch a cloud computing and infrastructure “as a service” back in 2008, with Microsoft Azure a heavyweight second and favoured by many who already use their operating systems. The rivalry with AWS will no doubt continue in 2021, fuelled by Microsoft landing the Pentagon’s $10 billion Jedi cloud contract. Cloud is the hottest ticket and the battle for share is driving innovation in AI, analytics, and data capability for us all.

5G and Enhanced Mobile Connectivity

Mobile connectivity is set to reach new levels of sophistication and capability next year. The continued roll out of 5G promises a significant increase in the speed and quality of mobile connection and more cloud-based data will support even smarter apps. The news in October 2020 that the latest iPhone 12 finally supports 5G is a significant step in the widespread adoption of this technology.

Looking at mobile content, 5G will enable real-time Predictive Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) allowing developers to create highly personal apps that are more intuitive, and AR/VR will add another layer of engagement – they all offer the opportunity for greater User Experience (UX).

There are also significant commercial benefits provide by 5G and real-time data. SalMar, one of the largest global farmed salmon producers, is using 5G to monitor the well-being of fish in the world’s first offshore fishery. Image recognition algorithms detect when fish are over or under-feeding, and automatically release food and medicine to keep them healthy.


Artificial Intelligence has increasingly been on the radar, but the volume of data collected in 2020 particularly on healthcare (largely around infection rates and behaviour) has been unprecedented. We expect to see this continue in 2021. This rich data will inform increasingly sophisticated applications and insights using AI. As our patterns of behaviour continue to alter next year, and as more and more activity takes place online or in a traceable capacity, we expect to see a greater use of data analysis, machine learning and AI.

AI is supporting advancements in a myriad of settings particularly using Computer Vision systems that rely on artificial neural networks to enable the effective interpretation of images. Facial recognition technology is increasingly being used and vehicle manufacturers are competing to add more autonomous features to their cars. There are also less well-known applications. In medicine, Computer Vision systems help diagnose disease and extend the sight of surgeons during operations. In agriculture, crops are monitored for signs of pests or disease meaning treatment is faster, and a John Deere semi-autonomous combine harvester uses AI to detect the optimal route through crops after analysing the quality of grains.  As the versatility and capability is increasingly understood we expect to see even more innovative examples in 2021.

Cyber Security

With the rapid growth of global data, from 4billion terabytes (4 zettabytes) in 2016 to 96 zettabytes in 2020, coupled with a similar growth in the ways we want to access that data, such as smartphones, wearables, tablets, cars, tv’s etc, the job of protecting it has become more important than ever. Access to the vast array of tools needed to commit a cyber-attack are widely available on the dark web, reassuringly estimated to be 5,000 times bigger than the surface web.

According to Roger Grimes, a 30-year tech industry road warrior who spent 11 years as a Principal Security Architect at Microsoft, “Every company will be hacked.” Healthcare providers were already a target before the pandemic but our increased reliance on them has made them even more vulnerable.

So, how do we combat the increased threat level? The current shortfall of cybersecurity talent is 4 million worldwide, according to the ICS² latest cybersecurity workforce study. This is not something we can just hire our way out of or leave to an overstretched team. Successful organisations will rapidly improve their understanding of cyber security through widespread training and development, creating a culture of collective responsibility.

Extended Reality

Like many elements in this article, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality(VR) are not new. However, their value and versatility have been enhanced by our changing patterns of behaviour and the increase in capability and connectivity provided by cloud migration and 5G roll-out. Aside from enhanced gaming and experiential applications there are also innovations in education and medicine that are very relevant in the current environment. Using AR and VR, classes could be taught virtually, avoiding the need for crowded classrooms. Teachers can transport students to experience the culture, events, or examples they are describing – foreign countries, historical events, the formation of stars etc. In medical applications, opticians can use VR to conduct a full eye test remotely using high-definition cameras. An AR tool then allows customers to see a range of glasses on their own face, all without leaving home. Physical travel may still be limited in 2021 but virtual reality will be transporting us way beyond our immediate environs.

Moving Forward

The pain most organisations have endured this year needs to translate into positive changes in the year ahead. This positive change needs to be led by insight and inspired by innovation. We will have to continue to be brave and move forward, embracing technology and digital innovations that increase our efficiency, enhance our understanding, and improve our culture, enabling us to survive and thrive in 2021 and beyond.

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Richard Jones via

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Q: Time for a change? A: In Digital, the only constant is change

Towards the end of 2019, we seemed to be inundated with articles on the topic of change and how all businesses, regardless of sector or geography, faced unprecedented levels of disruption. This seemed like old news even then, as ‘disruption’ was already the commonly accepted bogyman for more established businesses. True, the pace of change was still accelerating, so much so, that I was beginning to think we might one day see the end of the digital movement. There comes a point after all when differentiators become commodities and the next new thing comes along. At this point there is usually still a great deal of work to be done for many businesses to ‘catch up’ or embed the new systems and processes.  The last eight months, however, have truly changed the rules and forced businesses to adopt radically different strategies. Those businesses that had already embraced digital ways of working and are thriving through the crisis, are rapidly adapting to cope with increased demand. Those that had yet to modernise can only ‘adapt or prepare to fail’, as was debated in our recent webinar of that title. Even in those sectors that have been severely affected by the crisis, organisations are looking hard at their recovery programmes, trying to imagine their place in the new normal and how they will recover.

When it comes, this ‘new normal’ will come quickly. In the time between national lockdowns, the UK economy recovered or ‘grew’ at a heroic rate. The recent vaccine announcements had a similarly dramatic effect on the FTSE, particularly in sectors that are struggling due to the restrictions we face. Those of you that were working during the millennium will remember how quickly we can bounce back from unforeseen, highly disruptive events. Like then, we will see a huge increase in the demand for change and more specifically, for the people who can drive that change. At one end of the scale they will be highly innovative creative change agents, helping Fintech businesses capitalise on advantages gained through our mass behavioural changes. On the other we will see a demand for more traditional transformation skills, helping businesses to catch up with the rapidly digitally enabled world. Currently, that talent is in reasonable supply, particularly for clients who are happy to look outside their own sectors. If history has taught us anything about these mass events however, it is this. Once the current problem is solved and insecurity is removed from the markets, businesses will surge forward to adapt or fill the spaces left. Private Equity will leap into gear to buy up the cash flow losers and, in Europe at least, will do it with money banked before this crisis, ready for the BREXIT fall out.

With the above in mind, we are already seeing an increase in demand across the board for our services:

  • Insight: Helping clients prepare for the future, with bespoke insights and data to inform decisions
  • Consulting: Helping our clients assess and develop both current and incoming talent
  • Board Advisory: As our clients embrace new ways of working, they need help, advise and insight
  • Executive Search: Reshaping leadership teams to meet the new normal
  • Interim: Connecting clients with short term credible alternatives to high cost consultants

At Norman Broadbent Group, the CIO Practice has many decades of experience. Although none of us has faced a mass event like this before, we have supported our clients’ needs through several others in recent history, including the Millennium, SARs, the financial crash of 2008 to name but a few, making us well equipped to support technology leaders in delivering and embedding digital transformation across organisations of all sizes.

If you would like to discuss this article further, learn more about The Norman Broadbent Group, or discuss specific people or organisational challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Neil Pilkington via for an initial confidential discussion.

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