Embracing future technology but maintaining a personal touch in accountancy

Sean Farnell is a Partner at Burgis & Bullock. He specialises in client services and business growth services for owner managed businesses.
He is always seeking to utilise the latest technologies and, in this blog, discusses the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in accountancy.

Businesses and professions across the globe are assessing benefits and concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) – and accountancy is no different.

The accounting industry is in a period of transformation and the impact of technology on the sector has been seismic over the last 10 years.

AI tools are the latest innovations which are being embraced by the sector and will be prominent over the next couple of years, even if the profession was slow on the uptake at first.

Tools are starting to be used for administrative tasks to enhance efficiency, but these tools will work hand-in-hand with personal skills and the human touch of accountants.

The key changes we are starting to see are around business processes, with the introduction of AI-powered software which enable accountants to process vast amount of information quickly through the use of automation.

It’s ideal for sending automated letters which are a reminder of payment details, keeping you on the front foot when chasing invoices and working hand-in-hand with a CRM system.

While this is a great resource for productivity, there are still concerns around accuracy and at this stage the role of an accountant can be to double-check that the processed data is correct.

We are starting to see AI built in with internal software too, which is useful from a perspective of information sharing and onboarding new clients.

We are seeing that there are major benefits in using AI for areas such as tax returns, tax automation and appropriate data sharing. It will be particularly useful for business owners and individuals seeking to access data directly from a professional firm’s servers.

This data set can be built by AI and rather than needing to phone an accountant, clients will be able to do it themselves by utilising automation.

Certain practices can take a lot of time for an accountant to manually carry out and that shows up in the time sheets, so this will bring down wait times for reports, reduce the time a firm uses on tasks and, as a result, mitigate significant cost increases impacting on professional services firms.

We are already seeing automation being used to reduce time in audits, particularly when a firm has its own IT resource, and AI is able to highlight transactions which it thinks the accountant needs to look at. This makes audits more focused and more productive and is especially welcomed at a time when increasing regulation is adding to audit complexities and significantly increasing the workload of auditors.

There are certain tasks which ultimately anyone is able to do and are very time consuming, the automation of these processes allows your accountant to focus on the added value they bring – which is ultimately what clients are paying for.

For any business which is looking at using AI it is key that you only use it on your own data and on your own servers. Resist the temptation to use easy access solutions such as Chat GPT, CoPilot and Bard, as they will learn from your data, and it will become accessible to everyone.

There are bots you can access to support, but they should be privately sourced and I would warn against publicly available bots especially as they are frequently referencing out of date information and (in some recent cases) have been known to generate responses based on incorrect data held on the web.

However, despite all these tools at your disposal and at an accountant’s disposal, they currently aren’t able to replace key skills such as interpretation, contextualisation, ethical decision-making and truly effective communication.

If you have any questions about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) call us for expert advice 0345 177 5500

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