Owner FitBooks Pro
Columnist
Share this content

Are You Ready for The Next New Thing?

Jun 27th 2018
Owner FitBooks Pro
Columnist
Share this content

I just returned from the Scaling New Heights (SNH) 2018 conference in Atlanta, as a first-time attendee. I liked the QuickBooks-centric focus of the conference and wanted to share what I learned. 

SNH is known for its in-depth trainings – you can leave the conference certified in your choice of QB products, if you pass the certification exam after attending the trainings. For myself, I opted to attend one advanced Excel workshop, which was excellent. The rest of the time I spent attending the sessions on how to “Tame the Machines” - the theme of this year’s conference.

One common message emerged as the major take-way for this conference: the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning in our industry. This topic was addressed in the general sessions and in many of the individual workshops. How does Machine Learning and AI apply to bookkeepers and accountants? 

As Machine Learning grows, we are seeing its incorporation into many of the third party apps which sync to QuickBooks, such as ReceiptBank, Hubdoc, and more. The OCR (Optical Character Recognition) these apps employ to reduce manual keystrokes is key. These apps extract from a receipt or bill the Vendor name, date, dollar amount and more, enabling the user to simply choose the account to which the expense should be posted – and in many cases, it can choose the account as well. I’ve blogged about this before, as hands-free data entry. This technology is based on Machine Learning. 

QuickBooks Online itself offers Machine Learning, in the bank feeds, and in the Bank Rules. You can setup a Bank Rule so that every time “Chevron” appears in the bank feed, it will automatically be posted to the expense account “Automobile Expense:Fuel” and the transaction won’t even appear in the bank feed - it will go directly to the register. Using Bank Rules has dramatically reduced the number of transactions which I need to manually touch and review.

Other developing tech is based on AI. Main stage and TED talk presenter Ben Ross, founder of MyAdvisor.AI, https://myadvisor.ai/ has created a tool which grabs your QBO data and pulls it into a reports package which interprets the data in words, accompanied by color graphs and charts. Per their website, “myadvisor provides businesses with AI generated financial analysis – it acts by spotting trends, calling out problems, and forecasting what's likely to happen next. Using our Artificial Intelligence technology, we create insightful reports with relevant details, written with the expertise of a human.”

Confused about the difference between Machine Learning and AI? Here is a nice article by Bernard Marr on the Forbes website.

Joe Woodard, the conference host, stated at the New Attendees Welcome his prediction that in 10 years the bookkeeping/accounting profession will be one third the size it is now. Joe believes this so strongly, he invited Daniel Susskind, co-author of the book “The Future of the Professions: How 
Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts
” to speak at the conference. Daniel challenged us to ask ourselves, “How might I solve problems in new, non-traditional ways?”

So will AI make bookkeepers and accountants obsolete? My takeaway from the conference: if we are still working in “old school” ways, the answer is Yes! But if we stay current with the technology and trends, we are in a position to transition from data key punchers to data interpreters, using AI as a tool.

Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before. Our role should be as Trusted Advisor, not keystroke data entry. But how many of us are using the tools out there to automate data entry and invoicing? Automate and enhance reporting? How many of us meet with our clients monthly (in person or virtually) to review their P&L and Balance Sheet, and help them analyze their business metrics, instead of just sending them a P&L and Balance Sheet which we know they are a) not reading/reviewing, and b) if they do look at them, they don’t understand them.

Now is the time to become the financial interpreter. Dawn Fotopulos, author of the book “Accounting for the Numberphobic” spoke at several conference sessions, and preaches the importance of demystifying the financial data so our clients can make real business decisions based on a true knowledge of their business. This is actually old school advice, but we can do it so much better now with the new tools on the market.

Conclusion

Many firms in our industry are resisting making the transition away from desktop-based software to could-based technologies. Most of the new could-based tech is incorporating Machine Learning and AI. Now is a good time to think about how to transform your practice so that you are keeping up with the trends and technology. Do you want to be a leader, or a follower? In my opinion neither option is better than the other, I’m just saying it’s important to chart a course and follow it, instead of letting the tide take you where it goes. Be in charge of your own future, and your own success!

Jody Linick is an AIPB Certified Bookkeeper and a QuickBooks® Certified Pro Advisor.  Her company, FitBooks Pro (formerly called Linick Consulting), specializes in remote bookkeeping services using hosted QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online. You can find her series of Blog posts here

 

Replies (1)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By orange
Aug 23rd 2018 14:50

Thank you for posting the article by Bernard Marr. It is so important to keep straight what words mean in tech, and not to veer away from those definitions due to sloppy journalism - which is the 'norm' today. Marketing and Sales will always draw illustrations in people's heads of what technology is today and what it will become. But their motive is superficial - they are not engineering.
As a tech professional for many years, I can say that the prospect of what artificial intelligence means, is akin to the discussion in the past about what cloning means to morality and the world at large. (What it means is click-ability in the media.)
Artificial Intelligence has a long way to go, and the dirty secret of tech is the average number of years younger workers stay in their roles at these companies is less than two years. In less than two years, you can't teach the history or the culture of the business, nor the purpose and direction of an engineering team to those employees.
So going forward, there is going to be a challenge to maintain a corporate culture, let along 'building on a good thing' in anything. Artificial Intelligence needs a long standing think tank of brilliant people to become a reality.
The people who have the greatest advances is not IBM's Watson, but in fact Google. Google was founded by very very intelligent people and those same engineers continue to work on projects to improve upon what they established.
So when you think of AI, you should mentally start with considering how search engines consider words IN CONTEXT. Then consider that this artificial intelligence needs to revert this into all languages, with all major dialects. A GIGANTIC problem in engineering.
Take it to the next step and try to teach morality to this 'AI entity' about the difference in a self driving car being able to discern between objects that suddenly cut in front of a vehicle. Rhetorical: What is the difference between a ball, squirrel, bird and child? Which is more important? Does China value life the same way as Western countries? Are dogs important to 'save'?

Thanks (1)