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The Impact Of Artificial Intelligence On Local Accounting Practices

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Concepts like artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing are bleeding into all facets of the accounting industry. Today, local practitioners can set up AI dashboards that alert them to strange patterns in client metrics, and some practitioners are experimenting with ways to use AI to make their internal processes more efficient and make employees happier, or in some cases, more redundant.

 

And, of course, clients are looking for work that has AI woven in, whether it's Alexa skills or chatbots. Click To Tweet

Any time an explosive new technology takes hold, accounting practitioners have to navigate how it fits into their business. While some may be waiting until it has taken a deeper hold, others, like the Big 4 are more bullish and are even marketing their skills in AI to their clients.

For Shamus Rae, a partner at KPMG, it’s a step accounting firms have to take.

According to Rae, “AI will increase our audit quality, as it begins to allow us to ask a lot more questions. It will improve efficiency in what we do and it will provide more insight. More than whole jobs disappearing, we will more likely see an impact on skill sets and we will still need humanities. We want this to lead to a more holistic education for all.”

If practitioners don’t adopt this kind of change right now, and understand they have to really commit to it, there is going to be an evolutionary separation. There will be two different species of practitioners: One that evolved with AI and one that didn’t.”

Snubbing AI would be akin to a practitioner turning its back on social media 10 years ago.

Champions over chiefs

As the possibilities of AI are becoming known, practitioners are grappling with the best way to bring in that knowledge.

The power of this stuff is such that it surpasses traditional firm shiny object syndrome.

As a recent report from Deloitte highlighted, technology advances have historically eliminated some jobs and created others. There’s no reason to suppose that this trend will not continue, says Deloitte: We cannot forecast the jobs of the future, but we believe that jobs will continue to be created, enhanced and destroyed much as they have in the last 150 years.

Most small firms do not have a head of AI, but do rely on expertise to understand how it can help the business until it’s more deeply ingrained. Employees work on the forefront of new technologies, and once it really catches on, the company starts more formalized training across all employees.

Whatever the approach, the key to success is incorporating the new technology in ways that everyone across the firm can master. Which in turn could ultimately render the need for a chief of AI obsolete.

Too soon?

Some practitioners may feel it’s on the early side to make big investments into this area, although they are very welcoming of AI disguised as ‘dashboards,’

Some practitioners are excited about AI but don’t have clear use cases. Some are skeptical of the hype of AI being the business disruption panacea. Some are cautiously optimistic — stressing cautiously. So it may be early for local practitioners as opposed to the regional and major firms. AI not only has possibilities in client systems and services, but also in managing the operational complexity of a fast-growing practice.


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