Mark_Naysmith_29-07-11Last Wednesday's one year to go celebrations provided a taste of the excitement to come next summer.

London 2012 is getting closer and the preparations of athletes and organisers are picking up pace.

On this day next year, we will see the first day of competition in the Velodrome, and Great Britain will be hoping their cycling heroes in Beijing can repeat that success to get the London party started.

What about the preparations of UK businesses?

In order to capitalise on any increase in demand and minimise disruption to operations, businesses must be ready.

But are they?

Deloitte asked 300 large UK businesses about how they were preparing for the opportunities and challenges from London 2012. We were encouraged to discover that 95 per cent of businesses have either started assessing or plan to assess the impact of the Games. Less encouraging was that 53 per cent have yet to start this process.

However, it is clear that businesses are waking up to the need to prepare and be ready for the Games. When we asked the same question last year, 56 per cent of companies said they had no intention of assessing the impact of the Games at all. Now it is just five per cent.

Businesses yet to start their Games readiness assessments should do so immediately - initially by gaining senior level buy-in for a Games readiness programme. This should be quickly followed by the appointment of a representative group from across the organisation to assess the risks and opportunities. Every business is different and should recognise its unique circumstances in its assessment - with industry, geography and competition among the key influencing factors.

Our research suggests that businesses have increased their level of understanding about the potential challenges they could face during Games time. Thirty seven per cent of companies are worried about the risk of a security incident, compared with 5.5 per cent last year, whilst 26 per cent are concerned by a potential lack of resources such as hotels (seven per cent last year). Eighteen per cent fear disruption to their supply chain (eight per cent last year) and just 3 per cent of businesses expect no disruption at all, a significant decrease on the 39 per cent of businesses who felt this way just 12 months ago.

The issue causing greatest concern to business is the potential unavailability of staff. Forty three per cent of companies cite this as a major concern ahead of the Games, compared with 23 per cent when asked last year.

Transport disruption is one possible cause of staff unavailability and businesses should use the Games as an opportunity to review and implement alternate sites, flexible and home working practices where feasible. This would be hugely beneficial to strengthening the long-term resilience of organisations, providing a legacy benefit from the Games, as well as helping reduce the strain on London's transport system.

Critical to developing an accurate understanding of all the potential impact areas is crafting a set of planning assumptions around transport and staff availability, supply chain, resources, security and technology. Organisations should not wait until hard data is available as this is likely to leave things too late.

With less than a year to go, it is encouraging to see improved business sentiment and awareness about the Games. However, this is tinged with a degree of caution in that most organisations have yet to understand fully the impact.

London 2012 is an immovable deadline, and time is starting to run out. The sooner businesses implement their Games readiness assessment with sufficient vigour, the sooner positive changes can be made. This will ensure adequate preparation in advance so the exciting opportunities of this sporting and cultural spectacular can be fully enjoyed.

Mark Naysmith is a director in the business continuity and resilience team at Deloitte, the official professional services provider to London 2012