In the accounting profession, it's critical to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technological advancements shaping how you do business and serve your clients. Generative artificial intelligence (AI), including ChatGPT, is one such technology that has emerged in the past year.
While there's lots of buzz about ChatGPT and other Generative AI platforms in the media, many firms still aren't sure what its practical uses are or if they should implement policies around it. So let's explore the use cases for generative AI in an accounting firm and how firms can maximize the benefits while protecting themselves and their clients.
What is generative AI?
TechTarget explains generative AI as follows:
"A type of artificial intelligence technology that can produce various types of content, including text, imagery, audio and synthetic data. The recent buzz around generative AI has been driven by the simplicity of new user interfaces for creating high-quality text, graphics and videos in a matter of seconds."
Essentially, the technology learns patterns from input data and generates similar but unique content.
While ChatGPT is one of the most well-known generative AI platforms, there are several others, including:
DALL-E by OpenAI
StyleGAN by NVIDIA
Microsoft Copilot for Office
What is the current stance on generative AI in accounting firms?
We surveyed our Circle community members to learn if they use generative AI in their firms.
When we asked firms about their current stance on generative AI within the firm:
6.67% block it
13.33% are providing training and use cases for staff
28.33% allow it
51.67% are educating on it
While only a small percentage of firms are blocking ChatGPT, this approach falls short of the intended effect of protecting firm and client data. First, blocking access to generative AI platforms on the company's network doesn't prevent employees from accessing these tools on their own devices.
Secondly, focusing on blocking a specific platform like ChatGPT won't solve the issue. New generative AI platforms pop up regularly, so as soon as you stop one platform, another can take its place.
Instead of playing whack-a-mole, we recommend educating employees on acceptable uses for generative AI in the workplace and implementing policies that empower people to use them responsibly.
Unfortunately, many firms don't have such a policy in place. According to our survey:
16.67% have a generative AI policy
35% are working on one
48.33% don't have a policy and aren't currently working on one
So, where can you find a template for such a firm policy? Surprisingly, many firms are turning to ChatGPT for their generative AI policies.
It's essential to remember that generative AI isn't 100% accurate (even though the responses it generates to your prompts will sound highly authoritative). So any policies or other content you produce with generative AI should be thoroughly reviewed, fact-checked and edited to fit your firm.
However, many firm leaders say using ChatGPT to create a generative AI policy got them about 80% of the way there. Isn't starting at 80% (or even 50%) better than starting from zero?
Potential uses for generative AI in your firm
Before we talk about potential use cases for ChatGPT and other generative AI platforms, it's important to highlight what you should not use it for: anything involving client or sensitive firm data.
Public generative AI platforms aren't confidential. They log all inputs and use them as training data. So inputting client data can lead to breaches of confidentiality, loss of client trust and expose your firm to legal liabilities.
So what can you use generative AI for?
Some ways we've used generative AI in our work or heard from other firms include:
Creating job descriptions
Writing blog posts, marketing copy and social media captions
Search engine optimization
Drafting client emails
Generating new business proposals
Brainstorming topics for articles, webinars and speaking engagements
Coming up with alternative job titles for roles
Simplifying technical information
Generative AI is an exciting new tool that can help your firm accomplish more in your limited time. But, as with any powerful technology, it's crucial to be aware of its limitations. By understanding the potential and perils of generative AI—and realizing it's a jumping-off point, not a complete solution—your team members can leverage it responsibly.
Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward?
The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top Process and Lean Six Sigma leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement.
As Operations Strategist for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Jacqueline plans, executes and manages the people, resources and scope of many of our firm’s projects, programs and events. Her primary focus is on managing projects for IT Consulting, Strategic Planning and Talent Consulting. In addition, Jacqueline works closely with leadership to oversee the company’s human resources by managing hiring, onboarding, training and development and overseeing our Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS). She also supports our Allyship for Diversity commitment at BCI, which seeks to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion within Boomer Consulting and the accounting profession. Jacqueline also works on the strategy and development of our eLearning initiatives.