Business ‘streamlining’ staff turn to tech

Survey shows just one in eight finance leaders think they will invest in people more than tech next year

The pandemic saw thousands of employees laid off across the UK, and as the climate improves, businesses must decide whether to focus investment on hiring or technology, says Nick Ludlow, RVP sales – UK, EMEA and APAC at Chrome River Technologies.

In the survey conducted by Financial Director, just 12 percent of respondents thought they would invest more in people than technology over the next 12 months. Half (51 percent) said they would invest more in tech, while 37 percent said they would invest in both equally.

Ludlow adds that he’s seeing similar things in his role talking to clients “at the coalface”.

“I would estimate that 90 percent of the companies we’re talking to have a hiring freeze. It’s a sad indictment, but a large proportion of them have taken the opportunity, using coronavirus to streamline their workforce,” he says.

The survey was conducted in association with Chrome River from September to October.

Latest figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that unemployment rose to 4.5 percent in the UK, the highest level since 2009. The ONS also reported that redundancies in the previous quarter (June to August) were around 227,000.

Ludlow says that while it is perhaps to be expected that companies feel they need to cut staff due to the economic fallout from the pandemic, they will face operational difficulties if they don’t balance those cuts with spending on process automation.

“There are those that are streamlining their businesses to save costs on salary. and are not spending on the digital side. Those are the problem ones because they will soon start to see the negative impact of slowdowns, inaccurate data and lack of visibility..

“But the ones who are streamlining, digitalising, and have taken the time to do the research, and are focused on looking for the return on investment, and have studied before they made changes to digitise by seeing where the leakages are, they are going to thrive,” Ludlow adds.

However, one knock-on effect of the pandemic could be a spike in hiring more data analysts who can help give the finance team more control and visibility.

“One of the key benefits of digitisation is that it eliminates the need for time-consuming, low-value, manual processes to be performed. However, one area we may well see changes is the type of people hired, with a greater focus on higher-value processes. When processes have been automated, it’s quite common to see finance teams bring on more analysts, who can use the data provided by these solutions to make smarter, more informed financial decisions.”

Ludlow adds that while getting the right tech stack in place is important, having staff with the capability to use the data effectively will become equally valuable.

“It’s not just pressing a button and it magically digitises the process for you – that just doesn’t happen. You need somebody that understands the data, somebody that understands what they’re doing and they’re going to be invaluable,” he says.