It’s easy to see how these questions are top of mind. The headlines definitely trend more towards an apocalyptic future. One bright morning on an otherwise unremarkable day the armies of Robo-Accountants emerge from the shadows and decide to make themselves known, city by city they invade firms everywhere, 10-keys blazing, and all human accountants become immediately obsolete.
Headlines sell. But they don’t tell the whole story. My favorite example of this is the oft-cited Gartner statistic that AI will eliminate 1.8 Million jobs in 2020!
Yes, it will. Kind of.
The other half of that statistic is one that tends to get buried: AI will CREATE 2.3 Million jobs in 2020.
Taken together, those two statistics begin to tell the real story of how AI will impact the accounting profession. Some jobs, as they are currently defined, will be replaced by robotic automation and AI. But the people in those jobs will still be needed. If anything, they will be free to work on higher level projects and tasks.
It comes down to what AI is really good at, and that’s executing complex but repeatable tasks. The kind that are the same time after time after time. I don’t know many people who relish doing the same complex tasks, the same way, over and over and over again, do you?
And if your firm has invested in UpSkilling your staff, you will have lots of opportunities to leverage your talent in new and profitable ways. The Business Transformation Playbook was designed for just this type of opportunity. If we instead choose to look for the opportunities in the chaos, it becomes much easier to see the ways that AI is going to AUGMENT our roles.
More than 90% of the world’s information has been created in the last two years, and we are currently utilizing less than 1% of it.
AI and machine learning systems will be able to process vast quantities of data, find patterns and classify or structure the data in a fraction of the time it takes today. It can turn data into information, and people are going to be able to apply it directly to their firm and clients.
Your firm should also be considering or at least talking about a data management strategy. AI systems don’t work well with bad data.
The way that we work with our systems has been changing year over year. Virtual assistants or chatbots that understand natural language instead of code are everywhere. From home devices to shopping pages on the web to your own smartphone we will continue to need to “code” less and less. Natural Language Querying (no special syntax or formatting needed) is already being included in many systems today, including Oracle, PowerBI and Tableau.
Everyone gets frustrated with computer systems that do exactly what they are told, and not what we mean. We aren’t far from a day when you can actually reason with your software and tell it exactly what you want.
Some AI systems focus on business intelligence and aren’t limited to simply identifying trends in information. They can move from the realm of descriptive (what has happened) information into predictive (what will likely happen) or even prescriptive (what to do to make something happen) insights. This change is critical to transforming from a client advisory service provider to a consultative expert.
Artificial Intelligence will be built into the systems and tools that your business uses. It won’t just be in your accounting software packages. It will be present on your web pages, answering your client’s questions, or providing them basic advice via a web portal. It will be assisting your HR and IT teams in getting staff the right information just as they need it, and your finance and operations teams will be using many of the real-time, self-service reporting tools that leverage the business intelligence generated by the systems
AI is coming, and it will impact your firm. Your firm should embrace it instead of fighting it. And I feel quite safe in saying it will not be heralded by a walking army of tin cans out to remove humans from the workplace.
Yes, Artificial Intelligence will be disruptive. But it is going to play a complementary role in our workforce. It will make them faster, more efficient and significantly more productive!
If we keep our mindset open and focus on augmentation instead of replacement, it becomes much easier to spot the opportunities through the disruption. The future doesn’t sound quite so scary after all does it?
PS - Many of the major conferences are now dedicating some sessions dedicated to the topic including one I will be doing at CCH’s User Conference at the end of October - come say hello!
Most CPA firms want to build upon their compliance and transactional services and provide more consultative-based services. However, evolving a firm's business model to create and support this growth can be a challenge. Complexities with alignment, planning, training & go-to-market strategies can all be barriers for firms to take new and improved services to the marketplace. Th