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How does artificial intelligence affect accounting industry
About The Author
CA KUNAL V. BHUTADA
FCA, ISA, FAFD
AI, artificial intelligence, machine learning – the buzz words are surrounding our society – as well as the accounting industry, and we’re already starting to see the impact. AI makes significant improvements in accuracy and efficiency, making a significant difference in almost all domains. AI contributes to changing workflows, working 24/7, providing immediate value. The AI wave can be compared to the industrial revolution, but it is moving much faster. Despite rapid technological advancement, many accounting firms are of the opinion that they wait to embrace the technology until it has established itself even more. But this approach has its drawbacks.
AI and artificial intelligence are methods and techniques that enable computer systems to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. Using smart algorithms, machines can interpret data, acquire knowledge, and learn to perform special actions – like a human. Because artificial intelligence is not just based on rules, but smart algorithms that teach and build experience, it is therefore possible to automate certain accounting tasks. However, there is a significant difference between a rule-based system and an AI-based system. An AI-based system learns over time using a lot of data.
Human intelligence was for a long time been required to interpret invoices and perform the AP process, but today AI has allowed accounting firms to streamline this process. We’re at the stage where the human touch is still required for quality assurance, but the accountant can now delegate the data entry tasks to the AI, while taking upon the role as the AP process controller.
Some invoices are simply, allowing the AI to process these with ease. However, other invoices from certain vendors are more complicated, and this means that the AI needs to be trained in other to process these invoices correctly. This is where the machine learning comes in. Over time, the AI will learn how to process complicated tasks, but the learning may take weeks or months. Because the AI can learn and adapt, the AI will reach 99 percent automation of all invoices over time, and this is why it’s important to be an early adopter of the technology. The earlier you start training the AI, the earlier you will be able to automate complicated processes.
You cannot «turn on AI», sit back and see the AI automate your AP process by itself. It is important to train AI the way you want your accounts to be posted, and this takes time – machine learning takes time, before it saves time. Data should be interpreted, read and remembered, and it takes time to distribute the knowledge.
The Accountant’s Role
Few AI systems are autonomous and fully automated. They still depend on the human input. That is, an important and crucial part of machine learning occurs between the system and its users – what you might call interaction learning – a learning that often takes years. This is a crucial step in getting the organization to understand how the system interacts with the ecosystem. Generic systems, RPA of standardized processes, will therefore provide little value to companies if they are not tailored and adapted to each individual need. The key to achieving this is dedicated staff / accountants who contribute to interaction learning. Back to the AP example mentioned above, it is only by correctly posting an invoice through the AI that learning finds its way into the dataset and makes AI even smarter and more precise.
It’s not about whether the AI will make accountants obsolete, it’s about realizing that the industry is changing and that the firm needs to adopt the new technology that will allow them to stay relevant. It’s about understanding that AI is here to stay, and that early adopters of the technology will reap the benefit. We are witnessing a development we have never seen before, and if you think technological progress has gone fast over the last 10 years, then the next 10 will go even faster! AI is the biggest opportunity the accounting industry has encountered since the internet came, so grab it!
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