Cloud computing platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) programs have become more mainstream in industries like accounting and financial services. As a result, there has been some debate over the role that machine learning and AI will play in the workplace — potentially affecting jobs and services.
A recent Forbes article asked the question that seems to be on many minds lately: “Will artificial intelligence and cloud accounting replace the accountants of tomorrow?”
While the industry has experienced a number of shifts due to technological developments in recent years, the trend is more of an evolution than an extinction of the traditional role of accounting and investment professionals.
How Accountants (and Clients) Benefit from Automation and Digital Tech
Cloud computing software is freeing accountants from lower level, time-intensive tasks like data entry and basic computation. The cloud makes it easier to offer clients access to their account data in real-time. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to offer more consulting and advisory services. Inputting and processing large amounts of data and financial information, which might consume days or weeks of an individual accountant’s time in the past, can now be automated.
So Much Data, So Little Time
AI systems have the unique capability to react to change. “An AI system can react and adjust for changes to an economy on the other side of the planet while its company’s human employees sleep,” states Eleanor O’Neill, ICAS contributor, “It can save days of historical data analysis by scanning reports and compiling results in seconds.”
In the age of big data, organizations are struggling not only to process the ongoing tsunami of information but, more importantly, to make sense of it. A computer program can solve this problem, freeing accounting professionals to move away from the “number crunching” aspects of the job to more advisory roles.
By shifting the minutiae of the more transactional and mundane aspects of the job, CPAs and larger organizations that have embraced technology are left with more time and resources to increase productivity and profitability in the form of taking on more clients and designing more targeted services based on the sea of analytical data now available on-demand.
On the client end, increased efficiency through machine computing and data storage on the cloud means virtually round the clock, instant access to account information that previously took weeks to process and prepare by a team of accountants and clerks.
Leveraging Analytics for Performance and Efficiency
Less time spent wrangling spreadsheets and formulas naturally means more time working on more complex problems and tasks and upper level consulting services that can attract higher fees and a higher caliber of clientele. However, AI programs can also help make regulatory and compliance tasks more seamless – and accurate.
Some of the sectors in accounting currently experiencing the most transformation include:
- Risk management
- Compliance and reporting
- Forecasting and analytics
So what will more automation and greater machine learning and intelligence mean for human employees, and the clients who still rely on their knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions about their financial holdings and assets?
This is where accountants and financial professionals will continue to play a key role.
While a machine can easily and quickly input and sort large volumes of data, they still can’t think or make calculated and informed decisions and conclusions or offer advice like a human brain. Or as Ken Reid from accounting and consulting firm KPMG put it, “We certainly don’t see it as robots taking over. We see it as using technology in different ways to augment the skills of our people.”
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