Why CFOs should automate, with TreasuryONE and Automation Anywhere

TreasuryONE's Rudolph Janse van Rensburg takes CFOs through the automation process.

On Thursday morning, 18 June, CFO South Africa hosted a webinar with TreasuryONE and Automation Anywhere which focused on Robotic Process Automation (RPA). TreasuryONE CTO Rudolph Janse van Rensburg and Automation Anywhere digital workforce evangelist for IMEA Sumeet Pathak discussed how CFOs can remove mundane, repetitive and manual reporting tasks by automating. 

Rudolph started the webinar with an overview of what RPA is, saying “it’s a specialised software robot that automates high-volume, repetitive, rule-based tasks in an auditable and reliable way”. 

On a daily basis, financial professionals use various different systems and applications to do work, and it can be very difficult to process all those different applications and systems if you don’t have something like RPA. 

How did RPA come into South Africa? According to Rudolph, the early adopters of RPA software were banks who had international owners. These owners decided to bring RPA into South Africa, which created competition among the different banks. After various failures, and eventually successes, in implementing the software, South Africa’s corporate world also started to adopt RPA, especially within finance departments. 

Rudolph then explained TreasuryONE’s journey to automation and implementing Automation Anywhere’s RPA software, taking attendees through the mistakes they made and lessons they have learned along the way. 

When TreasuryONE started looking at RPA software, they went through a number of steps: 

Vendors

“Choose a vendor that will be around for the next ten years,” Rudolph said. 

He explained that they looked at a vendor who had a single product strategy, because that means that every dollar, euro or rand that you give the company goes back into the one product you are procuring. “If you partner with a company that offers different products, every dollar goes to a central pot and someone decides how much money goes into each product. This decision is usually based on which product is currently the most profitable.”

Innovation delivered

“RPA is a very competitive industry, so you get a lot of announcements of products suddenly having new tools like cognitive automation or document processing,” Rudolph said. “But you need to take it a step further and ensure that that innovation announced is actually being delivered in the product and that it’s not just a marketing stunt.”

He explained that, what often happens, is a product will market a new tool, but you end up having to bring in a third party to be able to use that tool. 

Leadership

Because there are so many players in the industry, Rudolph said they looked at the leadership of the company to make sure that the founders are still heavily involved. 

“You need to make sure that when you look at the leadership of a company, it’s not a private equity or venture capital type, because that usually means that there’s already an exit strategy in mind,” he said. 

He added that, if the original leadership is still very involved in the business, you know that they will see it through until the end. 

The product itself 

Rudolph said that you also need to focus on the product itself. “When it comes to RPA, it’s important that there are different types of processes that you can automate,” he said, adding that you need to make sure the product works into the systems and processes you are using, as well as the capabilities within the company. 

Partner

Finally, you need to ensure that you choose a partner that is able to implement the RPA software for you successfully. 

Deployment strategies

He then looked at the different deployment strategies depending on the company’s appetite for risk or the capital that the company has to spend on an RPA project: 

  • Dip your toes: where you start with something as small as automating only your accounts payable invoice
  • Land and expand: where you start working on a medium range with multiple small and medium processes 
  • Full digital transformation: where all your processes are automated

Implementation

When you start deploying RPA, it does not disrupt business like a typical ERP implementation. Rudolph explained that, a typical ERP implementation puts a lot of strain on business users, especially on the finance department. 

“You should also not necessarily be following the same principles,” he said. “You can’t implement RPA in silos. As you start automating processes within one department, you might run into hurdles or challenges, like a process that’s not conducive to automation. Instead, you need to deploy everything at the same time and target multiple divisions or departments altogether, because you might find that there are similar processes that you can automate in various divisions. Those are really quick wins and will help you scale a lot quicker.”

After a walkthrough of how RPA works once implemented, attendees had the opportunity to put forward questions they have around RPA and its implementation, which will be answered in a follow-up article.