There’s no bigger bogeyman in the accounting industry today than the specter of artificial intelligence that seems to be looming over the entire field. Accountants everywhere appear to be worried that they’ll soon be replaced by the robots, and are beginning to wonder how they can ensure their job security. Luckily for you, the savviest accountants have already gotten started adapting to the 21st century, and those just now preparing to confront AI have a number of examples to follow.
So how can you leverage AI for success, and become part of the 21st century instead of being replaced by it? Follow these tips, and keep a close eye on the tech scene, and you’ll quickly be exploiting artificial intelligence for newfound success in your career.
Don’t fear tech; use it
The first thing you need to understand is that it’s vitally important not to be intimidated by forthcoming technologies. Too many of today’s accountants are scared to look reality in the face, and instead act as if the forthcoming age of AI will be an Armageddon for them, when it reality it will prove to be a boon to their industry.
It goes without saying that continued innovation in the fields of machine learning will inevitably replace some workers; low-level financial employees who deal with mundane tasks like number-crunching and auditing, for instance, will need to gain a new skill-set. Most accountants, however, will still be very valuable in the forthcoming years, and can quickly train themselves to deftly use emerging tech to their advantage. Industry research shows that rapid changes are coming, and that those who don’t begin preparing themselves now will be sorely sorry in a few years.
Start slowly, inform yourself on the basics of AI, and begin making a checklist of what you’ll need to do to remain relevant well into the digital age. For instance, those accountants who don’t consider themselves to be tech-savvy should immediately begin familiarizing themselves with the latest tools and software of the industry, as you won’t be able to afford being ignorant of the latest digital innovations when AI becomes widespread in the marketplace.
By thinking outside of the box, you’ll come to realize that your value as an accountant in new company formation doesn’t stem from your ability to be a human calculator, but rather from your ability to closely analyze complex financial situations and to make cool-headed decisions. Rather than being replaced by tech, you’ll come to see that you’ll mostly be leveraging tech to better inform yourself before making decisions, and will become vastly more familiar with things like data analytics before long.
The age of expertise
You can no longer afford to be a low-level, one-size-fits-all accountant. These days, it’s all about specialization, which is where AI comes in. To find your special area of expertise, however, you’ll need the basic skills necessary to master artificial intelligence. Become familiar with how your company collects, stores, and utilizes data currently, and you’ll be better situated in the future when data becomes even more important.
While artificial intelligence services can take massive mountains of data and grind it down into a small, easy-to-digest pile, it will still fall to human accountants to make important financial decisions on their client’s behalf. You may be expected to explain the latest trends to your more important clients curious about how you’re using their data, and will need to master your social skills to become adept at translating hard, AI-forged data into a meaningful presentation for your customers.
Automation to some degree is inevitable, which is why it’s vital that accountants hoping to keep their jobs should focus on developing skills that machines aren’t so great at. Interpersonal communication will become vastly more important in the accounting industry than it presently is, and collaboration with others who are also equipped with reams of data will become very commonplace in the field.
If it sounds like preparing for the forthcoming AI-wave is as much a social and personal endeavor as it is a professional and analytical one, you’re on the right track. While few in the corporate world like to admit it, artificial intelligence is a vastly world-changing thing, and won’t stop within the halls of industry alone. It will fast become a part of our everyday life, meaning you’ll need to be familiar with every aspect of AI if you hope to find professional success in a world dominated by it.
Make your piece with the robots now; they’re not coming, they’re already here. AI stands to benefit accountants who invest now in its future, and will rapidly come to redefine much of what we currently know about accounting in general. Don’t bet left behind by the future; start educating yourself on AI now, and you’ll be providing invaluable accounting services for decades yet to come.
Gary Eastwood is a CPA licensed senior accountant from Seattle, Washington. He received his CPA license from the Washington State Board of Accountancy in 2001 before relocating to Onawa, Iowa in 2008. Over more than 15 years of accounting experience, Gary has worked with multinational health service providers and independent CPA firms. He has a...