The University of Stirling has massively reduced the amount of time it spends on preparing salary budgets after customising its SAP applications.

With the help of SAP consultancy Absoft, Stirling developed and plugged a bespoke Personnel Cost Planning system into the standard SAP solution that the university has been operating for its HR data and payroll for around 10 years.

“We have a mass of information for generating staff budgets, so the idea is we wanted to accurately predict budgets more quickly and less labour intensively. We have about 22 users in HR, and most are involved in this process,” said Martyn Peggie, Stirling’s HR information system manager.

Prior to implementing the new system, the budget preparation process took the university’s HR users and six finance users of SAP 10 to 15 man days. The university used to prepare its annual salary budgets in Excel spreadsheets using information extracted from its SAP system, which was a lengthy and inaccurate process.

Now, however, Peggie said that the generating of data on the HR side now takes less than an hour, and on the finance side, activities such as time spent checking the data, has gone from a number of weeks to a number of hours. Stirling produced its first live budget using the system in the first week of February. “They [the staff] are able to focus on more value-added work, such as what changes to staff would cost, what changes to pensions will provide us, rather than just churning through the numbers,” he said.

Peggie added: “The data is of better quality – it requires less manual manipulation and there is less risk of wrong information. We can also monitor it better.”

The improved data quality means that Stirling is able to produce staff cost budgets that cover three years, instead of just one. “The new cost plans are more accurate. This is the closest we could reasonably get to that [100 percent accuracy],” said Peggie.

The main issue with the installed SAP system was that its standardised functionalities, to suit organisations in all sectors, was not fully aligned with the university’s needs. For example, the standard SAP solution allocates the same amount of National Insurance to all staff, whereas Stirling needed these calculations to be variable. A bespoke solution was also required for accurately accounting for staff with multiple roles, for example research assistant and lecturer, at the university.

In addition, Stirling added a functionality that allows it to track what its costs would be if a contract were to continue. Before the implementation of the new system, the costs would simply stop at the end of the contract.

Furthermore, Peggie said that the information can be accessed at all times, so that everyone has a better picture of the staffing costs.