Why AI Could Be Accountants’ Next Big Thing

Accountants are no strangers to change. From major accounting laws like Sarbanes-Oxley to tax reform to digital transformation, the profession is constantly on the move.

Despite the change, one thing has remained the same: Accountants rely on tools to manipulate and add value on top of data. There have been major innovations that have benefited accountants over the decades, and currently AI is the most talked about, with the most potential we’ve seen in a long time.

Large firms have already invested millions to adopt this new technology, but the great news is that smaller firms and sole practitioners can also reap significant value from AI pilots in the coming year. If you’re wondering whether AI can help your firm, here are some things to consider.

AI is real – and a bit of hype

In a trust-based profession like accounting, “artificial” may be a relevant word. And when you read about creative AI “hallucinations” (misleading or incorrect results from AI models based on patterns in the data), it’s no wonder accountants are asking if we Can AI be trusted or not? This year, there’s been a lot of focus on creative AI, and while the excitement is deserved, there’s also some hype. In fact, AI is already powering the tools and software that accountants have known and loved for years.

I have spent my career in technology and have been fortunate to work on the cusp of cutting-edge innovations like AI. I worked for years as a developer on Microsoft Excel, and later helped drive innovation and change in search, commerce, payments – often with data and AI being the primary engine of change.

In my experience, there are amazing opportunities for efficiency and productivity gains through AI, as long as software companies are confidently building on a foundation of innovation. Accountants can take a practical, thoughtful approach to AI that unlocks efficiency and scale without removing human judgment and analysis.

It’s all about data.

These latest AI advances are exciting and rely on something that has been fundamental to the accounting profession since day one: data. Every algorithm, machine learning model and generative model is built on data. We have a saying in the industry that goes, “garbage in, garbage out”. If the data is of low quality or the algorithms are implemented incorrectly, forecasts, reports and analysis will be inaccurate or incomplete.

Speeding up the process of deriving insights from data has been a passion of mine since I led the team that developed and wrote the core code that powers PivotTables in Excel 30 years ago. I wanted to help people take large amounts of data and quickly organize, summarize, and analyze it for important trends or different perspectives that they might not have seen before. I wanted to literally allow people to be curious and “play” with their data to analyze it in real time and draw new conclusions that only they could see.

Accountants have come a long way since PivotTables, but AI offers a similar leapfrog to virtually limitless insight and value.

Keep humans in the loop

For years compliance and technology teams have been seemingly at odds. One group is known for governance and risk management, while the other is charged with pushing boundaries, moving fast on innovation and taking few risks.

Just like doctors take care of patients, accountants take care of the “important things” that are critical to the health of a business — and our economy at large. Therefore, it is important for accountants to avoid risk and conduct a high level of due diligence on the technologies they adopt. A healthy caution with AI and generative AI is well established, but the key is choosing the right AI for the right scenarios.

Algorithms or machine learning models with exceptional accuracy are good for use in automated scenarios, such as calculating moving averages on cash flows.

Some creative AI scenarios and machine learning models can add incredible value even if they are only correct 90% of the time — the important thing is to keep humans in the loop. By that, I mean using AI to suggest answers to humans, rather than automatically applying them. A good example is using AI to draft a response to a client that requires your approval before sending.

I recommend trying AI in areas that are repeatable and predictable — like invoicing or expense management. For example, one of our customers, Furey, uses Bill AI to automatically read and extract data for international payments. With the time they save automating AI, they are able to reinvest it in more analytical work that is of greater value to clients.

Use AI to help create more value.

Corrected, leveraging AI in accounting can save costs and time by automating tasks, analyzing financial information more quickly, and reducing time spent cleaning data and correcting errors. Is and should be. This is the promise and potential of technology – to help you enter the field at third base. But without human legs to drive it home, it would stop there.

Countless stories about AI and the limits of technology are emerging – some hilarious, some relatable. But all of them make it clear that human context, judgment, ethics and problem-solving skills are essential.

That’s why CAS offerings are a fast-growing area in the accounting field—as data and AI are increasing the value of accountants’ advice in ways that can help small businesses manage cash flow and grow. are Accountants know that every business and every situation is unique. AI may not be equipped to handle new or unexpected problems, but accountants are. They have done so through pandemics, market uncertainty and more.

The next big pivot

AI is the next big pivot for the accounting profession. And since both accountants and AI thrive on insights through accurate data, it’s an ideal partnership. The combination of skilled accountants and AI-powered financial data will create new value and increase confidence in the profession.

As accountants pivot to AI, they move toward a brighter and more dynamic future, where human insight and AI-powered capabilities come together to redefine accounting’s boundaries and value for small businesses. With AI, you have the freedom to focus on your customers and other business priorities.

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