How AI Is Transforming Accounting

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Automation is transforming the accounting industry in a major way. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence that include rapidly increasing AI’s ability to process data, learn from it and draw increasingly complex conclusions, accountants are seeing a major change in their field. While robots slowly take over more and more of their tasks, accountants see increases in productivity but also a decrease in the total number of accountants needed to get the job done.

Like many industries, AI is not the death of the field but it does significantly impact the future employment opportunities available. Although accountants will still be needed, they will have to refine their skills to the higher-level thinking that AI has not yet reached, while most of their current duties will be taken on by computers.

More advanced processes are being automated

According to data by Accenture Strategy, by 2020 staff productivity in the finance industry will increase two to three times, while costs will decline 40 percent (and yes, some of this will come from staff decreasing). However, the staff they’ll need will change significantly, and will include data scientists, economists and anthropologists. Meanwhile, traditional accountants will see their positions automated for faster and more accurate processing.

Forbes says that the accounting industry must adapt to a solutions based method rather than a tools based method - that is, companies are quickly moving towards a cloud-based operation to access tools more universally, so what they need to be offering customers as a selling point are the solutions to financial problems that they can come up with.

Cloud technology and third-party connections have vastly increased the amount of data artificial intelligence can access to learn from, which is what allows them to develop better automated tools.

Employees are being replaced by automation

Traditionally, the jobs under threat from automation have been viewed as primarily simple skill jobs. Things like providing legal services, checking out customers at the cash register and handling customer service have been automated with success in businesses across the country. But increasingly complex skills are getting automated thanks to artificial intelligence’s advancements. That means more and more of an accountant’s duties can be taken on by a robot.

Because most of the more tedious tasks of accounting will be performed by robots, employees left behind must focus on providing beneficial insight and guidance to customers. Accountants must adapt to prioritize advice and analysis over basic information and data processing.

Customers now have easy access to those services with literally any accountant, and may even be able to handle it themselves thanks to the widespread availability of cloud-based accounting tools. As a result, simple data processing is no longer a selling point or priority for the accounting industry.

Costs should drop across the board

With AI taking on more and more of the accountant’s basic duties more effectively and for cheaper and cheaper, the cost of running an accounting firm will go down. This isn’t just because firms will need less accountants to handle the same volume, but because they will now have to spend much less time processing data to get to solutions and analysis to present to customers.

Customers will expect to see those savings passed along at one point - accountants will generally see the pricing in their industry fall over the next few years as services and needs change. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that accountants will then struggle to make ends meet - with prices dropping, more and more small businesses can seek accounting services for their industries, which means the potential customer base can expand significantly.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, accounting will soon become less expensive, more solutions-based, and more widely accessible. This will enable the entire economy to get financially smarter and make access to accounting tools a norm rather than a burdensome expense.

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Jun 15th 2017 03:14

Challenges bring opportunity. Firms aren't bracing for this change. Many will be forced to sell. Others will fold. I'm all for innovation in our industry. Unfortunately, the timing of massive innovation is occurring as baby boomers are transferring leadership to Generation X. As such, baby boomers may push for the status quo even though Gen X will want change. The delay in getting something accomplished will (again) put firms in harm's way.

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