Are accountants ready for machine learning?

Once upon a time, cloud technology was the biggest disruptor to the accounting profession. And, even when the benefits started to become apparent, many still argued against its adoption. But you can’t hold back the pace of change, and today, cloud software is so widespread it has become standard. So much so that making tax digital is now a reality. But, as the cloud becomes broadly accepted, a new disruptor has emerged – artificial intelligence (AI). And this time the changes are set to be much wider reaching.

According to the experts, the currently developed technology could automate up to 45% of the activities people are paid to do today. And, when it comes to the jobs of tomorrow, accountants are understandably nervous with stark warnings that a whopping 86% of the work done by bookkeepers, accountants, and auditing clerks has the potential to be automated[1].

Of course, technology has been changing accountancy for decades. Today, rather than entering numbers into books, computers give accountants the ability to calculate information more quickly and more easily. But despite the change of method, the underlying job has – until recently – remained the same. But, together, the power of the cloud and AI will change all that.

“Machine learning” is not science fiction, it’s already here. Algorithms used by Netflix that recommend what to watch next are a product of machine learning; as is Google’s ability to predict a search term as you are typing. And, in the world of accounting, cloud-based platforms are already using machine learning to make them work smarter. But, rather than making accountancy more difficult, the machines are helping accountants to become more productive.

Despite this, there’s no denying that likely advancements in AI will disrupt the profession in the short term. But for those that respond to the challenges and grasp the opportunities, the future is far from bleak.

Rather than simply crunching numbers and generating financial statements, accountants will need to take on a more an advisory role within their clients’ businesses. And this is already happening with modern accountants supplying insights, advising on how to improve finances, and anticipating future trends. Ultimately, looking at how the numbers can make companies work smarter and thrive. Furthermore, as cloud accounting platforms become powered by even better AI, accountants are set to become even more valuable to business leaders. Indeed, according to a report by Asian broking firm CLSA, a world where humans and AI are “bound together in a constant exchange of information and goals” is just around the corner.

With tech already transforming the profession, businesses need an accountant that understands and is ready for current and emerging changes (be that digital tax accounting or the rise of the robots). So it’s vital that they stay informed about emerging trends in the industry (e.g. mobile, AI, cloud etc.), and use these wherever possible. Not only will this help them to identify solutions that will advance their clients’ businesses, but it can also help accountancy firms to improve their own processes.

Are accountants ready for machine learning? Perhaps not yet. But as with cloud, with change comes opportunity, and it’s those that embrace and exploit this who will survive and prosper.

 

To find out how we can help you and your clients prepare for the latest technological advancements, speak to a member of our team on 01942 263 434 or email info@cloudgeeni.co.uk today.

[1] McKinsey