As a new millennium approached, businesses were left scrambling to update their systems and software as experts warned that many computers would be unable to function once the date rolled over from 1999 to 2000 due to conflicts in their code.

Spending on Y2K, otherwise known as the Millennium Bug, is estimated to have been as high as $500bn as governments, banks, airlines, telecoms and technology companies were forced upgrade their systems to avoid catastrophic failure.

However, for the majority of organisations, the challenge that Y2K presented was small in comparison to dealing with Brexit. According to a recent study conducted by technology company Eggplant, some 68% of C-suite executives for operations, IT and software management businesses believe that Brexit presents a far more complex challenge to prepare for than Y2K.

Y2K presented just two potential problems, one resulting from the use of two digit years (99 rather than 1999) and the other resulting from poor coding of leap year rules. While costly, these problems were fairly easy to fix. However, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit means that businesses are unable to identify what they should be preparing for and how they should prepare for it.

Speaking to Verdict, technology companies have previously expressed doubts over a range of issues that could result from Brexit, including a reduced access to talent, stifled innovation and an inability to access European data.

While exactly what Brexit means for businesses remains unclear, the majority predict that they will once again be forced to update their software to cope with the expected changes. Business leaders expect significant disruption to technology and IT processes, with 81% expecting to be forced to make changes to software and business practices as a result of Brexit.

“We are witnessing one of the greatest periods of uncertainty in our lifetime and this is amplified at an organisational level when it comes to software and processes and the interconnected supply chain,” said Eggplant CEO John Bates.

Could automation help businesses through Brexit?

With Brexit expected to lead to skills shortages as the UK’s access to European workers is cut off, automation is often noted as a potential solution to the problem.

A previous study by Adecco Group found that 34% of organisations were considering automating parts of their business ahead of Brexit, while 35% plan to reskill existing workers to perform roles that automation cannot current perform.

However, businesses don’t have to wait for Brexit to occur before they begin making use of automation and artificial intelligence. Using the technology, businesses can begin testing and refining post-Brexit business models that deal with the various different outcomes that could still occur.

“Intelligent automation will be fundamental to enabling operations, tech and software teams to test post-Brexit business models and coping with the potential challenges ahead,” said Bates.