Will AI and Cognitive Technologies Impact Your Practice?

Will AI and Cognitive Technologies Impact Your Practice?

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, sounds like something from the future, but it’s already something that’s becoming increasingly dependent in our world. Among other things, we are already accustomed to self-checkouts, speech recognition software and social media algorithms.

But, the next generation of AI causes the workforce to fear that they could be replaced with cognitive technology. Will driverless cars replace commercial truck drivers? Will manufacturing plant workers be replaced by robots? Will professors be replaced by computer-based learning?

And, what about accountants and bookkeepers? Will they be impacted by AI?

The short answer is yes … but not to the extent that everyone fears.

Here’s how AI will impact accountants and bookkeepers:

Transactions are being increasingly tracked and recorded on computers and communicated through computers. Online payments and automatic payments have already made an impact on the financial world. And, data entry software that can categorize transactions is already in the works. Computer to computer interactions are where a lot of companies are seeing success in the utilization of AI technology. The accounting world is not immune to this trend.

It can help you work quicker. It can increase the accuracy of the data and reports since there is less room for human error in the basic computations. The automation that AI brings can streamline your work.

It will expand a bookkeeper’s role from simple data entry into more of an advisory role on issues such as operational efficiency and business planning. Traditionally, the advisory role has been left more to accountants and not bookkeepers, but the introduction of AI for data entry will change that.

There is an increasing need to be tech savvy. Just when you think you are good with the technology you have, something new comes out. AI will force accountants and bookkeepers to learn AI programs.

At the same time, while AI will change the look of the day-to-day work of a bookkeeper or accountant, AI will never replace the accountant or bookkeeper.

Here’s why AI will not replace accountants and bookkeepers:

No technology can run completely on its own without human oversight. Think about the self-checkout at the grocery store. Even though the technology is not new, it’s still not advanced enough to completely replace a human cashier. There is always an employee at the podium in the midst of the self-checkout kiosks for the inevitability that the machine will make a mistake or need human intervention (which, of course, happens when you are using it and in a hurry). In the same way, AI will never completely replace a human in the finance world. A skilled bookkeeper or accountant will still be needed to review the reports and computations that the AI produces, and adjust, as required, based on exceptions.

You provide services that cannot be automated. Can AI listen to your client and give feedback on their vision and goals? No. Can AI build a trusting relationship with a client and be a useful resource for feedback? No, not in the same way an experienced accounting professional can.

Bookkeepers and accountants are capable of conversations, not just explanations. Imagine that your client has some questions about a financial report. An AI will only be able to rattle off a preprogrammed explanation. But, what happens if your client doesn’t understand an initial explanation? The AI will be unable to explain a different way. But, with a human accountant, your client is able to ask for clarification for every point until they’re satisfied that they understands fully.

What can you do to remain valuable in an AI World?

Make sure you emphasize your services on tax planning, operational efficiency, data analysis, interpreting reports and more. Sure, AI technology can generate a report. But, what does the report mean to your client? That’s where you can shine.

Don’t be left behind! Keep up with the latest technology in the accounting world. What is new today could be standard tomorrow, and something your clients will expect you to know how to use.

Be able to explain bookkeeping and accounting concepts in easy to understand terms. A client trusts and depends on a bookkeeper or accountant who can equip them to be knowledgeable about the financial side of his or her business. Be ready to explain what you do in terms the client understands and can relate to.

Be able to train your clients how to use accounting software. Become acquainted with a range of software so that you can advise which one would work best for your client based on their needs and goals for their business.

Business isn’t just about the numbers. Celebrate your clients’ successes! Congratulate your clients on reaching milestones. No AI will be able to replace the emotional support and encouragement you can bring to your clients’ business team.