First there was double-entry accounting. Then came the age of Excel sheets. This was followed by online accounting. And now, barely a few years later, the accounting industry is on the verge of total automation thanks to the involvement of AI (artificial intelligence), resulting in a revolution that transforms every thought we had about accounting so far.
And as painful as it sounds from the accountants’ point of view, even they will benefit from the changes – if they are willing to accept that they have to adapt to the new, ‘robotized’ world.
Moving to the cloud is a must for everyone involved with accounting, mostly any current and future accountants but this is especially true for SMB owners. However, if only the software is provided and the user has minimal accounting and/or IT knowledge, then the final result will still become a huge mess. That’s why online accounting programs are only half the solution – the other half must be you, the accountant. And whether you like it or not, you have to accept this new role if you want your accounting business to stay afloat.
The reason is simple: as online solutions take more and more processes into their ‘hands’ – in other words as more and more tasks are partially or fully automated – the less work you will have. However, as much as this is a huge asset for SMB owners, AI also has a huge disadvantage: it prepares the necessary information, but doesn’t make it ‘digestible’. This is where accountants step in: by providing value-added analysis you interpret the data created by a piece of software and communicate it to clients in an understandable fashion. To make things even better, the extended automation provides you with more work: since you’ll spend less time on the tedious validation process (which is also being phased out thanks to blockchain technology), you can drop accounting costs significantly, allowing SMBs with fewer funds to finally retain your services.
AI Behind the Software
Although the inclusion of AI has a huge impact on human resources, the biggest and most visible changes will occur in the accounting systems themselves. An implementation of this that exists already is the Hey Xero chatbot, which uses Facebook Messenger to display certain data stored in the accounting software after receiving the right text command. Now imagine the same with voice commands: according to the developers of Pegg, a chatbot integrating into Sage One accounts, the software is already capable of this – albeit a security issue regarding voice recognition (to prevent unwanted users from accessing the feature) has yet to be solved.
Returning to Xero, however, the company will also integrate AI into its invoicing and bank reconciliation processes. Since the AI can learn from a gigantic database (built from anonymous data, of course) and from observing your actions and behavior, it will be capable of automatically creating your invoices and reconciling your bank transactions in a short period of time with an almost perfect accuracy.
In simpler words, we are truly just one step away from a world where almost everything will be taken care of with the software, so you can indeed focus on running your business.