Artificial Intelligence (AI) has quickly moved from sci-fi imagination to being integrated into many areas of our lives.
It’s a trend that looks set to move into the world of accountancy, too. Practises are increasingly accepting the support it can offer, in a wide range of ways.
Reduce human error
Humans do sometimes make mistakes. They can be distracted, tired, biased, or misread, mishear or misinterpret information.
They tend to remember incidents and data points that are more common, more recent, or have a contextual feature that makes them stick out in their minds. It can fool the brain into thinking it has identified patterns or tendencies where none exist.
AI and machine learning will reduce the incidence of human error, bringing more reliability and accuracy to accounting.
Automate and speed up repetitive processes
One of AI’s greatest powers is to automate and speed up repetitive or basic processes in a way that digital technologies can’t. With an ability to process and interpret huge and complex datasets machine learning means that data can be gathered without our intervention, and patterns can be seen and responded to.
No longer will computer output only reflect our input, AI allows computers to do some of our thinking for us.
Offer accountants the chance to redefine and widen their role
With more of their ‘number-crunching’ tasks performed by AI, accountants will be able to move away from the heavy-lifting required by the job and develop those areas of their role where the human touch is more important. This means that many will be redefining themselves more as financial and business advisers or strategists.
Accountants won’t be replaced entirely
While AI could take over processes and areas of decision-making that were once done by humans, that doesn’t mean they’re set to replace accountants entirely. The profession still needs the human skills, life experience and empathy that accountants can offer.
Accountants need to put aside fears that their profession or role is threatened by AI and instead, take the opportunity now to learn as much as they can about the technology, considering how to introduce and work alongside it. They must focus on what AI can do for them—not how it can replace them.
In the words of the The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), “this is an opportunity to reimagine and radically improve the quality of business and investment decisions – which is the ultimate purpose of the profession.”
“In order to realise this potential, the profession needs to focus on the fundamental business problems it aims to solve, and imagine how new technologies can transform its approach to them.”
Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Accountancy, 2018.