finance staff believe existing processes are efficient but nearly 50% are still using spreadsheets -->
New research commissioned by leading IT software provider,
The survey gauged how the wider public sector, including police, fire and ambulance authorities, as well as NHS trusts, local authorities, further education establishments and universities, responded strategically to budgetary pressures and how many were using IT to deliver results more effectively.
In spite of having access to more sophisticated software alternatives, almost half (42%) say they still rely on Excel spreadsheets for their budget preparation, monitoring and forecasting. The research also revealed 49% of respondents spent between three and six months a year on budgeting activity, with 13% spending between six to nine months on the process.
Despite these results, 82% of respondents said they believed their existing budgeting and forecasting methods allowed them to respond effectively and in a timely manner to on-going changes in their budgets. This indicates a real lack of awareness about more efficient, alternative systems available to the public sector.
"It's surprising that Excel spreadsheet working remains the preferred choice, especially when there are more sophisticated systems available which offer access to real time information, and greater visibility and control over budgets.
"Perhaps what is more surprising is that our research shows a significant number still believe their current methods of working are efficient. There is definitely a case for educating finance teams how to manage their budgeting more effectively."
The Advanced research does, however, suggest senior finance professionals are beginning to look to IT innovation to drive efficiency, with more than half (51%) saying their organisation was planning to review budgeting and forecasting processes in the next year.
A separate survey of CFOs by business analyst firm,
The research also highlighted 62% of respondents describe a reduced reliance on spreadsheet working as 'important' or 'very important', suggesting the days of the Excel approach are finite.
A sizeable 87% said there was a 'medium to high importance' around giving budget holders greater control over their finances, and 66% believe greater financial visibility was either 'important' or 'very important going forward'.
Added Dickinson: "With 46% of survey respondents admitting that cuts in the last three years have 'significantly' affected their organisation it is surprising that implementing better technology to deliver budget savings has not yet been widespread. There are examples of local authorities making substantial savings following the adoption of new IT solutions and so reducing budget setting timescales from months to just days."
*Page 10, 2013 Gartner Financial Executives International CFO Technology Study.
Notes to editor
Advanced's software systems comprise core accounting/financial management, procurement, supply chain management, human resource and payroll systems, integrated with a range of collaborative, document management and business intelligence solutions to extend the value and effectiveness of the finance, human resource and payroll departments.
Management information systems for school and academies are also provided through Advanced's subsidiary, Advanced Learning. Advanced also provides specialist vertical solutions for the not-for-profit and legal markets. All solutions can be delivered as a managed or bureau service.
Customers are from both the public and private sectors and include
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