Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Integration

Carly Woodland Manager

Pinkham Blair Conversational Accountants Herts Beds Bucks London

AI is the use of computers and computing software to simulate human intelligence.

This is having a major impact on the way businesses do things, for example using software to replicate basic work that humans may have done previously.

We already use AI in our day to day lives, with products such as the Alexa being a feature in many homes, or the use of feature such a Siri on an Apple iPhone. The level of AI that currently exists is classed as ‘Narrow/Weak AI’ as it can only do pre-defined, set tasks but scientists are constantly trying to improve this and create ‘Strong AI’ that can solve undefined problems and tasks.

AI can be a useful tool in helping business become more efficient if the right technology is integrated into the organisation. It will be key to embrace the changes and continually monitor enhancements in this area to stay up to date in each industry. There is a general fear that AI is going to replace many jobs, as more and more things get automated then some aspects of certain roles will not be required anymore. However, it should be embraced and seen in a positive light that this frees up time to focus and improve on other areas. The mundane tasks can be dealt with by AI and the higher up more valuable tasks can be dealt with by humans who can focus on improved soft skills. This should result in a better product or service being offered to clients and customers.

Specific to the accountancy industry AI can be key in helping managing data. Clients want and expect more from their accountant than ever before. Gone are the days of just speaking to your accountant once a year when the year end accounts are due. Clients now want much more frequent interaction with their accountant. Business owners want up to date, meaningful data that they can use to make decisions with and plan for the future, to help achieve the business goals.

There are currently many types of software that have elements of AI that are being used by accountants. These include:

  • Bookkeeping and accounting software: Accountants have been using cloud based bookkeeping systems such as Xero for many years now to help automate transactions such as bank reconciliations where the software can make suggestions and then a person can just click to agree if these are correct. Other apps also provide information into this software such as Dext for expense processing which analyses receipts and invoices to extract correct categories and VAT rates.
  • Practice management software: There are many types of practice management software available such as Karbon, Silverfin and Xero Practice Manager to name a few. The software enables practices to assign and track work, automate client reminder/chasing emails requesting information, billing and credit control functions. Some of these also integrate with cloud based accounting software so the figures in the accounts will flow through to the original figures and vice versa so all figures agree. The software can also flag up review points and highlight areas that there could be potential gaps in information.
  • Marketing: Accountants can use tools such as Chat GPT to create blogs and social media content to post. Once you get familiar with using these types of tools it is possible to train them to write in your personal style. This can be powerful in helping businesses grow and attracting the right type of clients.

There are some areas AI struggles with such as:

  • Providing clear guidance on unfamiliar or new situations
  • Working out how to deal with uncertain situations.

This is because the software is based on pre-programmed algorithms so there is a limitation on how much decision making it can make if the scenario hasn’t happened before. These are being constantly improved with new innovations and over time the aim of the developers of AI is to remove these barriers so AI can be fully integrated into all areas of businesses.

The future is looking very exciting for the accountancy profession, and AI is likely to help accountants focus on the higher-level work. It is likely there will be increased Governance and regulation in this area to ensure that final decisions are still ultimately accountable by the people managing the AI.

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