Technology brings efficiency - and frustration

2003

More than half of UK managers believe that their companies have become more efficient in the past three years, with technology the main driver for positive improvements. But despite this, one in seven office workers still needs help switching on a computer while a fifth struggle to save a document and need assistance when printing.

According to the SAP Efficiency in Business survey, carried out in conjunction with UK online for business, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), FT.com and HP, employees of medium sized companies in the £10 to £50 million revenue sector topped the efficiency league with almost two thirds of respondents recognising efficiency gains.

But the survey of over 1,900 UK employees ranging from middle management to board level across companies of all sizes also discovered that almost two-thirds of senior managers say that their personal efficiency had not increased and that their time was not being used as well as it could be with technology, or a lack of, to blame.

'Dead-time' wasted through commuting, especially in the South East, and the difficulty of accessing business systems away from the office were the main gripes, with employees spending more and more time away from the office PC.

According to the SAP survey, improvements in collaboration within the organisation, improved education and training and streamlined reporting procedures would have the most effect on improving efficiency and reducing waste.

The need for improved training is a message echoed by a separate survey of 405 financial directors across the UK, by educational firm City and Guilds. Finding that the most rudimentary IT tasks are still outwitting millions of people, City and Guilds reports that one in seven employees can not even find their computer's on/off button.

Lack of training appears to be the key to this worker ineptitude, with one in five firms admitting their employees have just basic IT skills.

"Reducing time wastage and eradicating inefficiency has never been higher on the business agenda," said Peter Robertshaw, marketing director, SAP UK. But he added that staff feel under pressure to spend more time in the office when that could be resolved by firms enabling them to make more efficient use of their time.

"Technology has improved the efficiency of organisations but it still has a job to do for individuals. It is about utilising the three key areas out of the office – travelling, working from home - and being on site."

But he added that for the efficiency savings of remote working to be realised, the UK needs more widely available broadband availability.

"There is a need to access business processes and not just emails," he said, "but we need to enable broadband access for that."

Liz Grant, director of ePolicy and delivery at the DTI, said that the SAP survey shows firms can improve efficiency, productivity and competitiveness through the effective and innovative use of IT.

"However, it also highlights the need to focus on cultural and organisational issues as real business successes can only be achieved when an integrated approach is taken to issues relating to people, process and technology," she said.