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The New Role AI Can Play In Accounting

January 28th, 2021

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Driven by the COVID pandemic, there’s been a mass migration of businesses to cloud-based services. This includes accounting firms of all sizes, who now see the benefits of the cloud and especially the automation that artificial intelligence-powered services can bring to routine and time-consuming tasks.

“But,” says AccountingToday, “AI is for more than just automating processes and creating efficiencies — now is the time for firms to be creative, thinking about new industry-specific applications and firm-specific pain points where AI can play a role.”

A Deloitte report found three-quarters of business executives believe AI will transform their organization in less than three years. To be competitive and remain relevant, says the AccountingToday article, “Firms working with enterprise clients must consider AI seriously.”

A second AccountingToday article notes, “Today, artificial intelligence is transforming processes across the accounting profession, for those who are ready to invest in and adopt it.”

However, the benefits won't be realized immediately. “It takes [time] to adopt the software and to validate it, to train it enough for a firm to realize its benefits. The machine has to learn.”

The article – “AI, applied: Opening the black box” – goes into detail about a few new AI applications for audit, tax, accounts payable and receivable.

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Discussing a new AI accounts receivable program, the article explains, “The platform automates the invoicing process so bills are sent in a timely manner, but it also learns a client’s payment habits over time. How many emails or messages does it take before an invoice is opened and viewed? How many contacts does it take before a client pays the bill? Each client is different, and therein lies the art.”

To learn that takes time. In discussing an AI accounts payable process at Armanino, a top 100 firm, Youngseung Kuk estimated it will take the program three years to predict client behavior and needs at a close-to-perfect rate.

“The time spent validating is worth it, because by the end, as a firm, we’re going to be so much more scalable,” said Kuk, who manages business outsourcing services for the firm.

At Garbelman Winslow CPAs, partner Samantha Bowling said an AI program she brought in three years ago is still in the adoption phase, though it is already being used for many audits. “There is no substitute for time to allow an artificial intelligence platform to live up to its true potential,” the AccountingToday article says.

“This takes an investment both of money and patience, but for the willing, it’s worth it.”

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