Data. Spreadsheets. Columns and rows of numbers. Accountants spend their days manipulating figures and trying to extract meaning. It’s time well spent in pursuit of solutions that benefit clients looking to you for counsel.
Now, the transformative power of artificial intelligence is rippling through businesses, and that includes accounting. AI offers a tool for unlocking new powers of data entry and analysis. Machines aren’t about to take your place, but they don’t make human error, they don’t tire, and they can spot obscure relationships among datasets. For accountants seeking an edge through efficiency and keener insights, it’s time to adopt a strategy and learn firsthand about the advantages of AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
Computers once moved large quantities of data which made calculating faster. Now, they are solving problems and taking initiative. Through AI, they are being coded to behave and perform with human traits. They are building the capabilities to learn, interpret, analyze, and make decisions.
AI encompasses five domains, or branches:
- Machine learning: Recognizing patterns from present and historical data. With machine learning, accountants have a powerful, accurate tool for forecasting financial statements.
- Deep learning: Analyzing problems from structured and unstructured data. This is where the system solves problems by identifying relationships and associations.
- Neural networks: Structures that, like the human brain, communicate as they classify and cluster data. Neural networks are the power behind Google’s search algorithm.
- Natural language processing: Understanding human speech.
- Computer vision: Recognizing people, activities, and objects.
Future of AI in accounting
Traditional accounting relied on ledgers and eagle-eyed people to extract meaning from numbers. Those tried-and-true elements remain vital, but AI is adding new capabilities that streamline the process of accounting and make it even more indispensable to clients and employers.
Consider these advances AI is bringing to accounting:
- As data grows in quantity and quality, the structured data of AI helps accountants identify and rectify vulnerable areas – including signs of fraud — that might otherwise be hidden in a sea of information.
- Output quality, transparency, and auditability improve. Real-time reporting presents immediately actionable insights.
- Manual tasks, such as data entry and reconciliation, can be automated for faster and more accurate organizational capabilities. By some estimates, AI reduces time invested in repetitive tasks by 80 to 90 percent.
- Time saved on manual tasks can be diverted to higher-order pursuits, such as strategic planning, problem-solving, growing the business, and building a more competitive posture
Think about the conventional, human-driven methods of accounting and the times when even simple mistakes – which are inevitable – cause serious consequences. When humans are at the wheel, errors can happen due to illness or fatigue, a stressful working environment, misinterpretation of data, or the crush of deadlines
AI doesn’t get bleary-eyed, need breaks, or break into a sweat as the clock ticks toward a deadline. For accounting, it delivers a world of benefits:
- Zero-error, higher-volume invoice processing, and more efficient purchasing and procurement.
- Connecting your firm’s accounting books to access bank accounts.
- Guiding reconciliation and review of accounts.
- Classifying transactions and data into the customized chart of accounts.
- Tracking accounts payable and accounts receivable functions of financial accounting.
- Allocating and administering the payroll process.
- Simplifying financial reporting while delivering precise results.
- Chatbot support that addresses routine user queries quickly and accurately.
Challenges of adopting AI in accounting and finance
AI empowers all team members, and not just CFOs, to grow professionally and reimagine their roles. The challenge, of course, is helping those team members overcome their fears, embrace change, release the routine tasks that drive their days, and contribute to enterprise-level strategic thinking.
A comprehensive AI strategy helps finance teams understand their transformative roles and freedom in contributing to new business relationships, improving existing partnerships, and gaining the confidence to apply the insights that AI enables.
A firm’s investment in technology and AI should include significant earmarks for training that equips the workforce to manage and maximize their use of AI. This comprehensive support strategy assures full ROI for your investment.
No one ever said that change is easy, but proper preparation positions finance and accounting teams to experience the AI difference. They will find themselves analyzing vast amounts of data and building their superpowers to identify patterns and spot trends. They will be willing to hand routine tasks to machines and ready to explore sophisticated practices that enhance their own professional satisfaction and the status of their firms.
Surgent CPE offers intensive, extensive learning about AI
Moving into the world of AI might seem scary, but you don’t have to step off the ledge into the unknown. Accounting firms have a key to success at their disposal – continuing professional education (CPE) requirements. By focusing some of their learning mandates on technology, firms can leverage CPE to explore crucial questions about effectively incorporating AI into the workplace.
Surgent’s market-leading CPE for accounting and financial professionals offers future-ready technology courses, from examining the risks and benefits of AI and ChatGPT to tech trends impacting the accounting profession to data analytics with AI in Excel.
Surgent ensures that your professionals receive relevant, engaging, and up-to-date continuing education, with the added bonus of simplified administration:
- More content: First-to-market with content on new tax laws and legislation. Surgent offers more than 1,500 CPE webcasts and adds at least 15 webinars to its online course catalog every month.
- Accessible formats: Surgent options include webinars, a full library of self-study courses, and tailored in-firm seminars and training, for convenient training for individuals and groups.
- Timely content: The Surgent team of industry experts provides real-time releases of content when your staff needs it most.
- Leading faculty: Surgent’s experts have won more than 500 CPE Speaker of the Year awards.
- Flexible bundles: Buy in bulk with three options for firms of all sizes.
- Firm CPE Portal: The Surgent CPE portal eases administrative tracking burdens through instant access to detailed performance reports about employees’ progress and usage of your flex access hours.
Harness the power of AI
AI is here to stay. An effective AI strategy starts with learning from experts in the field about what AI is, what it isn’t, how it intersects with accounting, and the keys to success. It also includes training that provides your team members with actionable pathways to incorporating AI into their workdays.
Surgent CPE is first-to-market with CPE courses and offers timely, relevant learning that helps make sense of technology. With Surgent CPE, firms can easily bridge the gap between accounting that abides by traditional values while reaping the heightened efficiencies, timely deliverables, and sharper insights promised through the smart use of artificial intelligence in the 21st-century workplace.