Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the use of robots is “changing our world”, so how you adapt and plan for the use of the technology in your business will determine the level of success you will achieve. As accountants of the future, you will need to embrace AI in all aspects of your business and partner with others that provide the data, that these machines produce, giving enhanced information to make better informed decisions.

In 2015, Oxford University and Deloitte studied the impact AI and Robotics could have on jobs over the next couple of decades. The BBC used the data to build a clever online calculator where you enter in your job title to find out how your job will be impacted. That calculator revealed that 95% of accountants will likely face some threat from advanced technology.

So, what does AI provide us? AI automates the repetitive tasks to free us up to provide more value-added services to our clients. The data can be easily transferred from one program to another at the press of a button, leaving more time for other tactical tasks. AI builds databases that store enormous quantities of data for analysis that we can then draw upon to provide meaningful reports for our clients.

IBM Watson is an example of a cognitive computing platform where data is gathered from structured (20%) and unstructured (80%) sources, produced primarily from human to human communications. It learns, adapts and keeps getting smarter. It analyses the data and provides information for us to make better and more calculated decisions.

Blockchain or cognitive platforms, are going to have a huge impact on the way accountants work, as well as the economy generally. Taking the term “single ledger” to the next level!

What Does it Mean for the Accounting Profession

It doesn’t mean we will be out of a job. It means our job description is changing. Some of the skills we needed in the past will no longer be relevant tomorrow. As a profession, we need to ensure that we have a clear understanding of what will be required of the future accountant. The training of our future graduates and our teams in the evolution to the new world of finance will be paramount to the successful uptake of the transition. It is important to understand what new skills will be required to be relevant to business and to deliver more value.

As the efficiency and speed of cloud accounting and the data recognition of these programs improves, more time will be available to accountants for interpretation of the information, which adds more value to the business owner. The increased flow of information will assist in developing better strategy to enhance and grow businesses. This is where our new skills lie.

The data entry accountant (or bookkeeper) may become extinct. However new roles are emerging, some not even thought of yet, around the understanding of the data and how to interpret it for those in business. Business development and consulting skills will be need to be developed and today’s leaders will need to include the younger generation in their business decision making process, to provide them with the experience they will need to be better advisors.

Transform Now for the Robotic Age

NOW is the time to act to begin the transformation in the way you conduct your business. AI enhances what we do to provide greater information to make better more informed decisions.  It can provide far greater efficiencies in our processes that can lead to increased margin and improved profitability. We need to be sufficiently agile to redefine our business model to include AI in the way we do things. Seek out new technological opportunities that compliment your business. Explore the idea of where your business may be in 10 years’ time, having embraced AI, and strategize what needs to happen to get you there.

Sydney-based Deloitte partner Greg Haskins said “The longer we take, the more we will be left behind. Progressive finance leaders are prepared to experiment, so that the culture of a new way of working becomes the new normal.”

Bots can’t take over the humanness of relationships, the experiences we encounter and judgement that is required in many circumstances. They can only mimic human activity from the information that they have collected. Allow them to do the donkey work and improve the quality of your work.

The robots may be coming, but for accountants, this shift may present more of an opportunity than a threat.

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