AI and Accountancy: A Match Made in Heaven?

October 5, 2021

Across most industries, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a source of both apprehension and huge excitement. For years, CPAs have been pitted against this technology, building the fear that AI will render accountants useless. Of course, this isn’t the case.


AI is certainly a game-changer for the accounting profession, but it’s not here to replace humans. Most experts agree that it could never get to that point but instead enhance human efforts for greater efficiency.


In addition, AI is still in its infancy in accounting, which means that ambitious firms have a unique opportunity to get ahead of the curve and become a future-proofed business for guaranteed success.


Continue reading to explore how AI is transforming the profession and discover what the future holds for AI in the accounting industry.

What Is AI?

Before we dive in, let’s examine what artificial intelligence is and how it works.


Broadly speaking, AI is a collective term for computer systems and machines that can perceive their environment, think, learn and take action to respond to what they sense or achieve their goal. 


Machine learning programs, which can identify and learn from patterns in data, often power AI technology. The more data fed into the computer system, the better its performance will be as it can adapt its behaviour (or learn) by analysing previous data. 

Applications of AI in Accounting

AI can be a time- and cost-saving addition to any accounting firm. By taking care of routine, repetitive tasks, accountants can focus on the added-value part of the job. We’ve outlined five key ways AI can boost the productivity of CPAs:


1.Better Forecasting: Traditional forecasting is a labour-intensive process that requires a great deal of time due to manually reviewing data, running statistical analysis and creating outlooks for various regions and business areas. Errors can happen, leading to serious discrepancies. With AI, accountants can gain more accurate and deeper insights for better, more reliable forecasts, which clients can then leverage to make smarter business decisions.


2.Fraud Detection: AI paired with human intelligence can support fraud detection and minimise accounting errors by effectively reviewing data quickly. For example, it can detect anomalies such as duplicate invoices or check for compliance with accounting standards.


3.Effective Auditing: AI-powered audits are efficient and exact. A computer can audit every document within a business instead of checking a randomised sample as humans do, giving clients a precise overview of the goings-on in their companies.


4.Round-the-Clock Customer Support: AI applications can help accounting firms provide clients with reliable, 24/7 support. Unlike human employees, AI chatbots can work outside normal office hours to ensure that clients’ questions are answered promptly and professionally. When they don’t have the answer, the software can elevate the issue to human teams.


5.Reliable Insights: AI can analyse large quantities of data at speed and at scale. Accountants can therefore use AI applications to draw actionable insights from their client demographic, previous transactions and external factors for improved decision-making and business growth.

The Future of Accounting Is AI and Accountants Working Together

Accountants have been using technology for years to streamline processes and deliver more value for clients, but AI has the potential to radically transform and improve the quality of business decisions.


But, in order to make AI work for accountants (now and in the future), it’s critical to focus on the business problems it aims to solve, rather than worrying about relinquishing control to robots. AI outputs are, indeed, highly accurate, but they don’t replicate human intelligence. 


AI will advance to handle more and more number-crunching and monotonous tasks, but this will only create more value for accountants who develop their soft skills. AI cognitive function won’t be able to develop strategies for clients or advise them through difficult periods, but it will enhance an accountant’s efforts in these areas. 


By recognising the strengths and limitations of AI in this way, we can bridge the gap between humans and computers because the future of accounting isn’t just AI or just accountants — it’s both working in unison to deliver even more value to the profession. 


How to Prepare Your Firm for AI Success

There’s no doubt that AI will continue to evolve and grow in popularity in accounting firms across the world. The key is to prepare and adapt now to make the transition to an AI-powered firm as smooth as possible in the future.

Upskill Your Team

One of the main challenges when it comes to adopting AI in accounting firms is the skills shortage and availability of staff with the right technical training. It’s crucial to steer your firm in the right direction by providing opportunities to learn more about how to effectively work alongside AI. 


Successful and future-fit firms will boast accountants who have core data skills, such as data strategy and data processing skills. Additionally, accountants with interpersonal skills will be a huge asset to businesses that aim to increase value through AI. Start honing these skills now to stay one step ahead.


Overcome Technological Resistance

Resistance to technology isn’t uncommon in the accounting industry. However, whether your head is buried in the sand or not, AI isn’t going away. Transforming your company culture into one that’s open to change is a huge part of keeping your firm on the road to success. 


Start introducing new technologies into your business — and embrace them! Remember, technology is a way to support you so that you can better support your clients. Instil this sentiment in your team to transform resistance into understanding and, eventually, understanding into excitement. 


Backed by a tech-embracing workforce, you will be able to seamlessly integrate innovations like AI for a future-proof firm.  


Embrace the Future of Accounting with INAA

Here at INAA, we connect accounting firms who aim to deliver quality professional services around a shared vision to make global business personal, and take personal business global. 

With every industry change, our collaborative association of international businesses is committed to being a part of the conversation around auditing and accounting.

Join today to start building powerful business relationships.