How AI and Automation Technology Can Help Accountants

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
Mar 26, 2020
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There is a right way to strike a balance between human brainpower and modern technology.

  • The right way to strike a balance between human brainpower and modern technology involves utilizing artificial intelligence for aspects that make work easier for humans while allowing humans to use their unique brainpower in ways that AI cannot yet function. 
  • AI can help with accounting by enforcing corporate policy, streamlining data entry and analysis. 
  • To make yourself stand out against AI you can polish your consulting and advising skills, learning how to use complex software, and keeping the human touch.

The science of accounting is centuries old, but today's artificial intelligence and automation technologies are challenging it. Here are the benefits of combining accounting, AI, and automation to find a balance between human brainpower and modern technology.

Machine learning is being consistently built into the technologies that humans rely on for sending and receiving information, and the future of AI is built on the presumption that "smart" machines will continue to reduce the need for human labor. AI is not only software that can draw conclusions from large quantities of data and adjust its activities based on those conclusions, but it's also a system that can learn quickly in real time and be applied to an entire organization.

AI and accounting 

With this in mind, the myriad mathematical demands that currently rest on business accountants are what put the profession at a disproportionately high risk of supplementation and replacement by AI. The difference between leading a financial services team toward new, technological opportunities – or obsolescence – is in the strategic focus of leadership.

Accountants are already finding it hard to bill for traditional services like data entry or an audit; these services can easily be done by software to save clients time and money. The extra bandwidth created can and should be used to find ways to add more value elsewhere. By offering more holistic financial consulting, accountants can continue to improve their bookkeeping accuracy and accessibility while also diversifying what they offer to clients.

"We're quickly approaching an era of 'no-code accounting' – truly zero data entry," Blake Oliver, editor of Cloud Accounting Weekly, writes. "We're already seeing cloud accounting platforms move beyond transaction automation and into analysis. Machine learning [can] give accounting professionals unprecedented insights into their client base."

Oliver explains that in the case of a traditional bookkeeper, the employee's general job function is transitioning into an "information systems manager." This is someone with knowledge of decentralized, digital accounting, and the expertise to build systems around a constantly evolving ecosystem of new applications. In other words, an information systems manager exists to help their clients feel in control of both their data and cash flow.

And while machines are working on data entry and organization, accountants are free to seek more proactive business endeavors. This could involve ensuring their clients are ready for big financial transactions such as IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, borrowing funds, strategic reviews or restructuring. Accountants are often navigating the transaction in real time, but now, accountants can use AI to benchmark, track, and improve clients' businesses before a transaction commences.

Accounting activities that AI can perform

If you are wondering about accounting activities which AI can help with, according to Accounting Today, they are as follows:

  • Enforce corporate policy. One of the top accounting functions you can perform using AI is the enforcement of corporate policy. AI can be used to reduce the amount of time it takes to uncover issues of noncompliance in finance data. For instance, AI can scan employee receipts, credit card transactions and travel bookings to check if any purchases were made outside of the policy. This makes it possible for auditors to quickly assess errors and ensure employees are following all policies.

  • Streamline data entry and analysis. AI can help financial managers keep better track of transactions that are time-consuming and tedious. AI will allow you to extract data from receipt images and classify it automatically based on the spend category. It then populates reports so they can be analyzed in one place.

  • Reduce the risk of fraud. Given that AI can audit up to 100% of spend reports, it can predict patterns and detect a wide variety of irregularities in financial data. This allows auditors to fraudulent spending before the employees can be reimbursed. Moreover, given that it's scalable, AI can also easily manage influxes of data without compromising the overall level of accuracy.

How accountants can stand out against AI

As helpful as AI can be, many people have an aversion to using AI because they fear that they will be making themselves obsolete. Nevertheless, humans will always have certain advantages over their AI counterparts. According to Accounting Today, the following is a list of ways you can stand out as an accountant against AI:

  • Consulting and advising. One of the top ways accountants can stand out against AI is by offering consultations and advising services. If a client requires a consultation, they will undoubtedly seek out human intelligence over AI.

  • Learning how to use complex software. Using complex software is a skill that AI cannot offer. Although it can perform certain functions, it cannot perform these functions on its own. Moreover, a human eye is still required to ensure things are being done properly.

  • The human touch. Finally, one of the top things you can do to make yourself stand out against AI is to remain personable and compassionate. No matter how efficient AI may be, most people prefer interfacing with a living, breathing person who is capable of understanding their needs and concerns, and empathizing with them.

Takeaways

Currently, there remain many elements of the financial services sector that AI can't replace, at least partially because humans continue to prefer working with other humans, rather than robots.

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
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