Automating Together: The Human Side of RPA

By January 12, 2022No Comments

One member’s success with automating processes prioritized getting treasury team members on board.

Most members attending a recent meeting of NeuGroup for European Treasury reported that they are at the early stages of implementing smart automation tools like AI and robotics to improve treasury operations. One member at an IT company who recently completed an intelligent process automation project emphasized that while the benefits may be significant, it will take employees time to get in the groove.

  • The member worked with his tech team to build an end-to-end process to connect the company’s bank accounts, TMS and ERP. The initiative included automating tasks such as trade reconciliation, risk outlooks for payments and processing of loan applications. According to this member, the project yielded approximately 60,000 FTE hours in annual savings.
  • Businesses leverage technologies such as RPA or AI to aid decisions, which the member said can cut around 35%-40% of the current cost of operations. “It’s about moving beyond process change to adoption of operating models.”
  • “But as you look at implementing process automation, there is a lot of people and change governance that needs to be done,” he added.

Results require adoption. One member, also at an IT company, said his treasury team has seen positive results after moving from a manual to an AI-enabled medium-term cash flow forecast. “It was costly, but immediately improved three-to-six-month forecasts, and it uses algorithms to determine if we should move or leave money in our accounts.”

  • However, this member has found it difficult to convince some team members to actually use the new tool. “The capabilities are fantastic, but they’re only good if you actually use them,” he said.
    • “I struggle with some of my staff actually using the dashboards and predictive analyses.”
  • The presenter responded that he had a similar problem at first but cracked it when he realized the return on investment of process automation is based in large part on its application by teams. “To accelerate adoption, we started forecasting the loss [of savings] based on lack of adoption,” he said.
    • His team estimated ROI based on the time savings, and then calculated any ROI losses due to lack of adoption and linked that number to the performance of the group. This approach to measuring performance builds confidence in the tools and can help teams build confidence in their skill in leveraging technology to save time.
  • The presenter’s tech team took an hour a day to educate the treasury staff to familiarize it with the new tools. This allowed team members to work out issues on a timely basis and increased buy-in. “We pushed people, but we had to hand hold a little.”

Open sourcing. The member said it’s best to start an automation initiative by soliciting suggestions from team members who perform the task in order to (1) make sure all sub-tasks are accounted for; and (2) figure out whether there are inefficiencies in the existing process that can be eliminated with the new tools.

  • By leveraging a third party or an internal tech capability, “you can use data technology to help [team members] build small automations to free up their time,” a technique called citizen development.
  • Hiring treasury employees with data and computer experience has also aided the member’s treasury team with understanding which parts of their jobs can be automated.
  • “At our company, five thousand bots have been built in the last 12 months, which to me is very exciting,” the member said. “Five years down the line, we expect to see [treasury team members] creating their own automations,” using simple, low-code or no-code solutions.

Putting in time up front. One treasurer at the meeting recently began to work with an outside vendor to leverage its automation tools. The project included upgrading treasury’s dashboards and implementing AI-assisted cash flow forecasting and predictive models. Although getting the ball rolling on the large-scale project requires a great deal of work, he expects efficiency to soar in time.

  • “It may require six months of very deep pain and long hours,” he said. “But we expect that once implemented, the new systems will require very little upkeep.”
  • “We don’t infuse technology just to make things digital,” the presenting member said, adding that technology “is there to make employees’ jobs better and faster, and that pays off.”
Justin Jones

Author Justin Jones

More posts by Justin Jones