Artificial intelligence is a topic of many science fiction tales in which it has dangerous consequences. In reality, the use of AI is assisting all kinds of industries and helping workers thrive against all kinds of economic factors. In accounting, AI enables greater focus on human interaction, making it chiefly important in customer communication and satisfaction.
But what does the use of AI really mean for the accounting industry? Will this tech replace jobs? How can AI help accountants thrive?
Because of the widespread applications of AI technology, the answers to these questions are more complicated and diverse than you might imagine. AI is an incredible tool that can change the face of business and the way we solve problems. In accounting, this means automated solutions to book balancing and fraud detection, along with so much more.
What AI Means for the Accounting Industry
AI is everywhere. With the development of processes like deep learning, AI systems learn from vast amounts of data, allowing them to form analytical recommendations and inform decision-making. AI means learning and self-sufficient processes that bring invaluable benefits to the field of accounting.
Despite the fears surrounding AI usage—in a survey by Pegasystems Inc, 72% of respondents expressed concern about AI—around 84% of people already use AI in daily life, often in the form of the Siri and Alexa digital assistants. When we pair tech like this to the accounting industry, we see developments like:
- Data storing and presentation improvements
Without efficient systems, accountants are left navigating data across multiple spreadsheets and PDFs, attempting to understand and compile information from a wide variety of sources. AI has the capacity to streamline this process.
Accounting software can scan receipt images and automatically populate information into one convenient place. This cuts significantly down on the time accountants need to assemble data for analysis, giving them greater tools for understanding spending patterns and big-picture data. In turn, this means enhanced client communication standards, making the role of an accountant even more valuable.
- Financial control and protections
The complexity of modern accounts payable and inventory systems makes for a risky environment. Fraud can occur within a huge system, and without real-time data analysis, it may be a long time before unauthorized activity is caught.
AI changes the playing field by enabling constant analysis through generated data models. If predicted spending patterns do not occur, AI software has the ability to look further into anomalies, flagging them for human review.
Human auditors can typically only handle around 10% of expense reports, according to Accounting Today. AI, on the other hand, can scale to audit all of a business’s financial data, helping accountants do their job to their best ability.
- Decision-making enhancements
In every element of a business’s decision-making process, AI insights can offer better results. No human can be expected to thoroughly analyze and compile thousands of numbers and data points in order to model predictions and processes for better business practices.
AI can analyze that data in seconds, producing actionable results that accountants can then study and communicate to their team. This system enables data-driven decision-making, a feature that can boost company success to new heights. In fact, businesses that use data-driven decision-making practices are three times more likely to report improvements than their competitors who rely less on data.
Accountants can provide this invaluable benefit for decision-making procedures through the help of AI analytics. Then, all that is needed are accounting professionals who can thoroughly and clearly communicate that information to their clients.
These developments in modern technology have incredible implications for all kinds of industries. In accounting, they add time-saving and quality control measures that aid in fraud prevention and overall efficiency. With data storage, financial protection, and decision-making benefits, accountants are better served by using these technological innovations.
But does the use of AI mean lost jobs for accountants across the world? Will automation mean a lack of human representation in a field that relies on effective client communication?
Will AI Replace Accounting Jobs?
Accounting is not often thought of as being a human-focused job. Dealing with numbers, however, is only one aspect of accounting. The rest comes in interactions with clients, during which accountants discuss data and financial information to paint a broader picture of a company’s situation.
Accounting takes a wide variety of skills, and it is unlikely that the human elements of the position will ever be fully taken over by automation even as the threat of computerized processes displacing human workers makes itself felt across the world.
Between 400 and 800 million jobs are estimated to be automated by 2030, with AI enabling much of this automation. In the field of accounting, AI allows for some level of automation of tasks like:
- Tax preparation
- Bank reconciliation
- Invoice categorization
- Risk assessment
With such a broad range of tasks made possible through AI and deep learning systems, some accountants are rightly concerned about the direction of the industry and whether the new tech will result in displaced jobs.
However, accountants don’t have to worry too much. The trend of technology will likely transform the job rather than eradicate it. Research by Gartner shows that AI is more likely to create 2.3 million jobs than automate them out of existence, with the nature of roles changing to adapt to the new landscape. Accounting is one of those positions where automation will reshape rather than displace the nature of human work within the field.
Even with the use of AI, businesses will need accountants to analyze and interpret the information the computer generates. Humans will continue to be an essential part of communication and decision making, now enhanced through AI. With the mundane and repetitive number-crunching aspects of accounting out of the way, these finance professionals will be better positioned to consult and analyze accounting information in order to best support their clients.
With the help of AI, accountants can reduce the tedium to generate real-time fraud prevention solutions, all the while giving themselves room to assess the broader picture and go into depth with client needs and concerns. These features, among many others, are allowing accountants to thrive in the modern world.
How AI Allows Accountants to Thrive
AI uses the power of machine learning to produce actionable results for accounting and financial professionals. The AI used most often in accounting—dubbed narrow or weak AI—relies on machine learning practices dedicated to specific tasks but capable of learning on broad data sets. It scans and analyzes data at scale, searches for anomalies, and generates actionable insights.
Everything from payrolls to itemized invoice templates can be composed automatically with the proper system, giving accountants back hours of time every day. Accountants are then in a position to thrive, impressing their workplaces with their data-driven use of comprehensive tools. AI gives accountants more knowledge and hence more value as they navigate the complexities of real estate deals, tax consulting, business mergers, and innumerable options for business growth.
In the modern digital world in which global trade and business is a standard, technology tools for new businesses play a democratizing role, allowing accountants in any sector to give their company a competitive edge through data.
For example, UK-based tech company Arria has created AI software with natural language generation (NLG) capabilities that is enabling smarter solutions for finance software. The program emulates human behaviors to produce greater financial insights on large data sets more quickly.
“By emulating human behaviour in software, you get technology that can carry out tasks that are more than just straightforward number crunching, with the machine exhibiting real intelligence,” said Arria CTO Robert Dale.
These innovations stand to benefit the entire accounting and finance industry, without replacing the role of accountants. Instead, tech that offers seamless insights will redirect efforts into business growth and fraud prevention, creating safer businesses more prepared to flourish.
In short, AI is not the scary, world-ending technology that pop culture often makes it out to be. It likely will not even displace jobs overall, instead creating more as it allows for new and transformed roles to take the place of old, menial tasks. Transitioning will require working around new processes with the proper training and skill set for accountants and finance professionals, but AI will inevitably be the future of this industry.
If your business or accounting firm is not using AI technology, now might be the time to scale up and integrate these processes into your day-to-day business. With the use of AI exploding across all kinds of industries, using the competitive edge that machine learning tools gives you is all but necessary to stay on top. As the world adjusts to the COVID-19 economy, such an edge is especially vital.
AI allows accountants to thrive by its data processing, financial protection, and decision-making capabilities, taking the tedium out of accounting. Financial professionals are then able to devote more time and effort to the human side of running the numbers. With the modern workplace calling for enhanced, empathetic communication, AI is a tool that accountants should learn to navigate and use now—before it becomes a base-line industry standard.