According to research, many organisations are failing to embrace new technology and sticking firmly to firmly their manual systems – but at what cost?

New research from Kronos Incorporated suggests that UK employees are overburdened with unnecessary administration tasks, leading to a lost productivity cost of approximately £60 billion per year for UK businesses.

It reported that 72 per cent of respondents surveyed reported that manual systems are draining their productivity; and 77 per cent of HR and Line Business Managers said that using out-dated systems and technology was their biggest workforce management challenge.

A different survey from Advanced, a leading software solutions provider, and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), found that in the public sector the reliance on manual processes was even greater. Almost 90 per of public sector finance professionals are still using manual processes for managing at least part of their budgeting and forecasting processes, with the majority still relying on Excel spreadsheets.

The survey of 170 people revealed that only 10% have fully automated their processes. Many are still using Excel for budget creation (33%), monitoring (20%) and forecasting (41%). Email was the most popular way for budgetary information to be shared within an organisation.

The public sector can ill-afford to rely on outdated manual processes and just like the private sector, it needs to be looking at how automated processes could improve working practices.

Technology can make our working lives easier and more productive so surely now in the 21st century workplace managers need do away with their manual systems if they want to remain competitive?

What is behind this reluctance to embrace change?

Often organisations we speak to whisper and say “ummm….we still use spreadsheets” in hushed tones.

They know spreadsheets don't really work and create huge reliability issues and are only as accurate as the person inputting the data. Yet, they still persist in using them, which is puzzling.

For some it’s a question of, ‘we’ve always been done it like this so why change’.

For others, it’s more the dread of the initial disruption to the business whilst a new system is implemented and the cost and time involved in training people to get up to speed with the technology.

Cost is obviously a major factor too, especially for smaller businesses.

But whilst there will always be an initial investment, it needs to weighed up carefully against the potential long term benefits and cost savings.

Take automating a process such as absence management – it can deliver a host of unexpected benefits.

Companies can see at a glance where their team members are at any given time which means they really support flexible working and home working.

They can accurately track holiday leave, eliminate any errors or misunderstandings and ensure better resource planning for holiday times and busy working periods.

They can also better monitor sickness absence which is currently costing the UK economy billions of pounds. By proactively monitoring sickness, companies can spot trends and patterns – they can distinguish between people who might be partying too hard on the weekends and taking Mondays off and those who might be suffering from a stress related disorder and they can steps to proactively manage these situations.

This is just one example of how automation can deliver major business benefits. With these two research reports highlighting the problems with manual systems and the cost savings and productivity gains technology can deliver, isn’t it time for UK plc to leave behind the folders, paper forms and spreadsheets for good?

By Adrian Lewis, Director, Activ Absence