Are AI and cloud accounting replacing accountants?
No longer limited the realm of science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) has become decidedly mainstream in recent years. Finance and accounting are some of the many areas that is beginning to see an influx of AI, machine learning, and upgraded technology to working practice. So, does that mean that we should expect to be handing our accounting needs over to robots in the foreseeable future?
With scary stories revealing that automation is set to replace around 1.5 million jobs, you would be for believing that this would be the case. However, the answer, thankfully, is no. Human input remains – and will remain a vital part of accounting. But it is important to look at the ways that these technologies are influencing the industry.
While AI, software and technology won’t be replacing human accountants any time soon there are actually many ways that they can make things easier for people.
How is AI changing accountancy?
The natural place for AI is in understanding how to correctly tag transactions and assign them to the correct account. While this is something humans can do, it is time consuming, and good AI can actually outperform humans and reduce workload significantly.
Some of the most vital work that AI can perform is the streamlining of data entry and analysis. While this is currently slow and sometimes tedious work for accountants, in a world of AI, work can be completed automatically. This allows accountants to spend their time on in-depth analysis and providing key insights from the data.
AI also has a huge role to play in security and preventing fraud. AI systems have the ability to audit reports and understand patterns of behaviour. This allows it to detect anomalous activities which can be flagged to the accounts team. Of course, this kind of predictive and forecasting work can have a huge impact on business profitability.
A change in the focus of accounting
Perhaps the key thing to note here is that the AI and cloud accounting revolution is changing the role of the accountant. Of course, the traditional services of an accountant are still relevant and important, they are also more quickly and easily accomplished with the help of upgraded software and services. For example, using AI instead of manual bookkeeping frees up a considerable amount of time.
It is how accountants can use this new found time that will have the biggest impact on the companies that they work for and with. Accountants will be looked to for insight into financial matters and providing more varied advice and planning.
Should accounting be entirely digital?
There is no doubt that cloud accounting has been revolutionary for businesses. In many cases it is no longer necessary for companies to work with physical paper documentation anymore, and can make use purely of cloud accounting services.
There are some concerns over whether having wholly digital accounts is a safe practice – but these are unfounded. According to OS Accounting, specialists in both traditional and cloud accounting “cloud-based accounting is built on the same encryption technology as Internet banking, in some cases the encryption is even higher. Data is stored in data centres which have high grade technology that is too expensive for any home or small business to buy, and maintained by highly trained technology experts and staff”.
But again, this is not to assume that cloud accounting will replace the role of the accountant – rather that accountants can leverage these technologies to help their businesses in ways that were simply not possible years before.
While some accountants might be fearful of the role that AI and cloud technology can play in changing their job, this is not something that they should be concerned about. Do not think that automated systems put accountants out of a job – rather than automated processes make aspects of the job far easier, and allow the accountant to focus on more important work.
The key aspects of the accountant’s job are still things that machines are really not capable of doing, and will not be for a very long time. Advancements in technology can only be seen as a positive for the industry, and humans work with AI to improve the possibilities of accountancy.