Artifical Intelligence is here, but maybe it’s not so scary

One of the highlights of Xerocon2018 for me was a presentation from Professor Genevieve Bell: Preparing for artificial intelligence, or the fourth wave of industrialisation 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are not new concepts to Xerocon, but the narrative around it is changing. The focus this year wasn’t so much about the direct impact on the accounting industry. It was more about the impact AI will have on the world economy and our human experiences. The creation of new jobs and industries – some of which we are no doubt yet to imagine. The likely obsolescence of others.

What we can do to prepare, and help our clients prepare, is just one challenge for us to consider.

Is this the future? 

AI is undoubtedly the way of the future, but it isn’t necessarily scary. In fact, it’s already happening.

AI is already changing the way you do your bookkeeping with processes such as bank feed memorisations and suggested accounts.  There have also been significant improvements in accounts payable/receivable processing and supplier onboarding in more recent times. Cloud accounting has helped make businesses more productive and development in the AI space will push this much further. 

Exactly how AI will impact our lives and businesses, and how soon changes will occur, is difficult to envisage. However, it seems safe to assume is that this “fourth wave of industrialisation” will save us a lot of time.

So, the big takeaway for me, is that one of the choices we will have to make is what we do with that time.  

What would you do with more time?

Improvements in AI will continue the trend established with the uptake of cloud accounting. Your time will shift increasingly away from bookwork and record keeping, allowing you to spend more time on what you are good at – which can only be a positive.

Who wouldn’t want to leave bank reconciliations to a machine? 

As an accountant, AI will allow me to spend less time on historical data and more time working with real-time information. That means more time looking towards the future with actionable insights. This is where accountants can really make a positive impact for our clients.  

For all of us, perhaps AI will mean we can seek a more desirable work-life balance. Perhaps we will have time to explore other areas of specialisation or diversification.

For me, I like the idea of AI and automation allowing me to focus more time and energy on the aspects of accounting I really enjoy and that bring the most benefit to my clients. I also fancy the notion of having a newfound flexibility to explore other ventures and skill sets that augment my value to my clients and the firm.  

It will be interesting to see how AI’s impact plays out. Whether directly (will it be the end of bookkeeping?, or the beginning of single touch tax?) or indirectly (what new industries and services will emerge?), the timeframe seems to be short-term. We’ll see.

Is your business ready for AI? A Synectic adviser can work with you to plan for the future. We can also help you set up the right systems, right now, to take advantage of current AI and automation technologies.

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