How bots became a valued part of the Renault SA finance team

Webinar reveals how TreasuryONE’s RPA implementation convinced the skeptics.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a term that can make financial employees very nervous. Fears of machines taking over jobs and rendering human beings unemployable are palpable in the finance community.

This was not far from the reaction that Renault car manufacturers had when South Africa VP of finance Kobus Volschenk decided to implement RPA in the business. “One of the fears I had before going into automation was whether employees will see this as a head counting measure. I was quite clear about it in the communication that I wanted the team to use their skills to focus on the anomalies or out of the ordinary things, and investigate things they found strange,” Kobus said during a webinar hosted by CFO South Africa, in partnership with TreasuryONE, on 26 November.

But reassurances from the exco weren’t enough. Kobus’s finance team members, GM of finance Amanda Ndlovu and accounts tables head Christel van der Walt were nervous about the incoming bots. “I was wondering what’s going on, I was insecure, I was thinking, well hang on, is my job going to be redundant?” said Christel, whose role involves processing large volumes of invoices.

Amanda said she first heard about the business moving toward RPA after Kobus attended a webinar hosted by TreasuryONE’s Rudolph Janse van Rensburg (pictured), who was making the finance case for automation. “I was worried about how my team was going to react because we know in general people have a negative reaction to what automation can bring into a business,” said Amanda.

The fact that automation was going to be rolled out during Covid-19 lockdown did little to diminish the anxiousness of Renault’s employees. Kobus, who admits to taking his time before signing contracts, only signed on the dotted line on the eve of the shutdown. “I definitely questioned if the timing was right, but the wonderful thing about it is that lockdown confirmed the need for something like this. The teams were working from home,” said Kobus.

In fact, Renault teams never crossed paths with TreasuryONE who had deployed the bots in record time while everyone was in lockdown. “I was expecting delays with the integration and our IT and operational systems, but it was very quick and seamless,” said Amanda.

TreasuryONE’s team started automating tasks in Christal’s department first. Bots were programmed to manage the large consignments of invoices coming from one of her main suppliers. Rudolph explained that bots are triggered into action by an email, which then prompts it to extract information, and carry out validation and calculations according to the business needs. “This is important because we incorporate your business rules in each validation the bot carries out,” said Rudolph.

The bot can also be programmed to manage itself and the information it receives. “It was so quick and easy, the options that are available to make it work. It was comforting and exciting to know that I wasn’t going to be so stressed,” said Christal.

Christal and Amanda noted that there is significantly less pressure at month-end, and the quality of work that they are producing is greatly improved. In fact, the bots have become highly valued members of Renaults finance team, and their co-workers are now deciding on names for their new robotic colleagues.