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Those documents won’t file themselves – or will they?

Those documents won’t file themselves – or will they?

A major theme in accounting technology these days involves speculation, trepidation, and even fear about artificial intelligence. It’s at once entertaining and disconcerting to imagine a science fiction-like rise of robots that will out-think us, or may eventually replace us.

In fact, most of us use AI in our daily lives. It helps simplify or expedite common tasks that require gathering, handling and communicating information. If you have used a phone menu that recognizes speech, have Amazon Alexa or another personal assistant, or used GPS based mapping to find the quickest route, you have experienced artificial intelligence.

The deployment of machine learning, cognitive computing, natural language processing, speech recognition, and related technologies accelerating, with the market expected to double from 2014 to $9.2 billion by 2019, according to IDC Worldwide Content Analytics, Discovery and Cognitive Systems Software Forecast 2015-2019.

AI and related technologies in accounting

AI is certainly in use in the accounting industry, mostly in initiatives in very large firms. For example, auditors at big 4 firms use technology to extract key terms, compile and analyze large volumes of information to perform risk assessments or other functions. AI engines can identify trends and patterns in data sets, allowing accountants to identify changes in a client’s business, and to provide informed advice on strategy. TurboTax ran commercials last season in which AI-driven chatbots answered callers’ questions about tax regulations. The possibilities are exciting, but the fact is, the majority of accounting firms are not hands-on with AI today. It will take time for those solutions to become mainstream.

Enter RPA – robotic process automation. AI and RPA are both on the continuum of technologies in the ‘intelligent automation’ arena. RPA is focused on activity and processes, whereas AI involves higher level ‘thinking’ - simulating human intelligence. Automation tools in more common use today are based on RPA.

Robotic processing does the filing

RPA is effective in automating accounting tasks - high-transaction, repeatable, structured, rules-based processes. In Doc.It, you’ll experience RPA in our Autofiling and Advanced Forms Recognition (AFR) capabilities, where the application makes smart decisions about categorizing, naming, and organizing documents just as you would – only faster and with fewer errors. RPA conducts lower value, time-consuming tasks, freeing up accounting staff to focus their efforts more strategically. The benefits of RPA in accounting processes are endless:

Rapid response times: Robotic processing (RPA) keeps information better organized, reducing the time spent by staff members on searching for client files or documents, and allowing them to respond quickly to client calls and emails.

Accuracy: RPA makes consistent decisions in naming and storing data, reducing human errors.

Revision tracking: RPA enables the tracking of document updates and changes over time, so the most current version is identifiable.

Regulatory Compliance: RPA processes are aligned with regulations related to archiving, retention, and information management.

What’s ahead?

Early investments by large firms, including big four firms, have shown that AI technology can bring positive business results.

Technology and service providers are investing heavily in developing AI-based programs and applications for medium and smaller firms. So firms of all sizes should be thinking about how to adopt these new technologies to improve operations, reduce costs, and benefit their clients.

About the Author

Don Emery, CPA, CA, is director of client solutions for Doc.It Inc. Doc.It provides document management and workflow software designed specifically for accounting firms. Emery leads the North America business development team and provides implementation consulting services, assisting firms with strategy, document management, workflow efficiency, retention and compliance.