When one thinks of Artificial Intelligence (AI), one imagines a horde of robots doing some of the most critical activities in the world. The disruption caused by AI is already visible in the industries across the globe, including accounting, healthcare, manufacturing, and education.
An MIT-Boston Consulting Group survey revealed that 79% of people believe that technology enhances a company’s productivity, while over 80% believe that the use of AI adds a competitive advantage.
In an ever-changing world, we all continuously demand solutions that are faster and more accurate. No wonder, the majority of companies are increasingly moving towards AI-based solutions to handle business-critical functions such as accounting better.
AI enables computers to make decisions through machine-based learning. That makes them ideal for routine tasks such as bookkeeping and payroll, which would typically be done by human beings and often take a long time.
Therefore, don’t be surprised to see a highly advanced computer algorithm doing your taxes. A FreeAgent report states that 96% of accountants believe either all or some of the accounting jobs will get automated by 2022.
The AI workforce revolution is closer than one may think. Accounting firms are embracing the technology rather warmly as it helps them analyse large volumes of data at a speed beyond human capacity. But do you think AI will render accountants out of jobs? Probably.
Accountants can expect AI to take over several aspects of their jobs, primarily administrative tasks such as the following:
- Monthly or quarterly close procedures
Every company needs to have its monthly or quarterly numbers in place so that it can develop strategies for the coming months or year. AI can quickly compile the necessary data from various sources, consolidate it, merge whatever is essential, and present the final numbers.
With the help of AI-based technologies, companies can get their data faster and more accurately than if human accountants were to do it.
- Managing different supplier accounts and keeping procurement figures up to date can be a tedious task when done manually. Keeping track of paperwork frequently leads to errors. Moreover, different companies may use different file formats for their data that are not compatible with each other.
A quicker and easier solution is to integrate machines with APIs so that they can process the unstructured data. This eliminates the need for paper transactions, simplifies the procurement process, and helps keep track of price changes among suppliers.
- Accounts payable/receivable
Tracking accounts payable and receivable can be a cumbersome task for any accountant. Most companies, therefore, incorporate an AI-powered invoice management system into their workflow.
Once the AI has learned the accounting code for each invoice, a digital system can track invoices quickly, identify errors accurately, and add up the final totals more efficiently than an accountant can.
Every company needs to undergo periodic audits to ensure that everything is above the board and that all the data is in place and accurate. Usually, an inspection would call for a massive search of file cabinets for different kinds of documents, which would almost certainly result in errors.
By incorporating AI into the workflow, documents can be pulled up and accessed in moments on a computer system. This allows for an audit of 100% of a company’s financial transactions, rather than just samples, as in the case of manual documentation.
Moreover, the AI can track when each document was opened, how many times it was opened and by whom. That helps in keeping a tab on what the records are being used for and whether or not they are being used by the right authorities.
- Expense management
Managing corporate and employee expenses is an accounting task that every company has to perform, regardless of size or sector. It can be extremely tedious to manually review and approve each reimbursement request to ensure that it is compliant with company policy.
Instead, AI can automatically approve or reject requests and notify management if any breaches occur. This also simplifies the expense claiming process for the employees as it now happens instantly on the computer system rather than having to approach multiple managers for signatures.
Over to you
The value of AI is expected to touch $400bn by next year. From this discussion, it is evident that AI is here to stay and will likely take over several aspects of accountants’ jobs.
However, this does not necessarily mean that companies will no longer need human accountants. It merely means that accountants need to rethink their skill sets and job profiles if they are to move with the times.
For instance, accountants can start offering more consulting and advisory services, wherein they analyze and conclude the data that AI processes for them. In conclusion, the accounting field will undoubtedly see a significant overhaul as AI becomes more popular.
There will always be scope for talented and experienced human accountants to grow, but they will need to work a bit harder to give themselves a competitive edge.