Revolutionizing Accounting: The Role of AI in Streamlining Financial Processes
If you're an old school Bean Counter, you remember using ledger paper to enter financial data on to. It took days to manually input all these dollars and cents to paper, not to mention the inaccuracies that arose from the human writing element of the accounting process. But, fear not, as there is another step up in efficiency with a new savior. Just as computers overtook paper ledgers 30 years ago, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionalizing the accounting job for decades to come!
Right out of the gate..."It's going to take our jobs" screams the Boomer accountant! It very well could eventually, but for right now, why not use AI to generate a higher return for you and your clients by making your work more efficient and with higher accuracy?
AI Examples in Accounting
Just in the small amount of time that AI has been around, I am personally seeing how AI is being integrated in to the accounting software platforms I use and making my life easier.
One of the first examples of AI that I experienced was with our best friend...Excel. This program is a huge part of a Bean Counter's life and anything that can be added to it that makes data management easier, is a breath of fresh air.
There are several examples of how Excel is using AI features to streamline financial data, but the one that is becoming very useful in my work is it's ability to extrapolate data in a row or column to create the necessary equations to forecast the data. The cool thing is that its "behavior" is based on my original mathematical process to forecast the data. Crazy right?!
A lot of words there to say; AI is saving me keystrokes in Excel because it is assuming that I am going to want that same data for other tables of data! NERD ALERT!
Bill.com is another awesome accounting software that is becoming crazy popular. Basically, this platform allows an accountant to input payables and run them through an approval process that brings the approved payment back to the accountant for processing.
One part of the Bill.com process that take a lot of time is inputting the payables. What if AI could input the information for you based on an upload? Good thinking because that's what they've done.
Check out the process...I receive emails that have bills attached. The first thing to do is save the PDF file in my accounts payable files. Next step is to upload the invoice to the Bill.com software where AI reads the invoice information and inputs all the necessary fields. This cuts the amount of time processing payables down by 90%.
What has been interesting is watching the AI learn my behaviors and invoice layouts. It will make a few mistakes at first, but as it learns my keystroke techniques and how each individual invoice is presented, it becomes more and more accurate to the point now that I just scan each invoice for accuracy and push a button.
QuickBooks, in my opinion, is the best accounting software to use for startups to mid-sized businesses. One of the reasons it is so popular is its use of AI.
The amount of time AI saves me within QuickBooks is incredible. One of the "basic" AI features is its ability to know where a transaction should go when sitting in the Banking section of QuickBooks. These are transactions that have been downloaded from the bank and are sitting waiting to be accounted for and AI has already presented them with accounting accuracy.
What the Artificial Intelligence in QuickBooks does is ingest all of my prior accounting actions for particular transactions and suggests where I should book the future transactions. So, instead of having to go back in history to a particular vendor to see where I accounted for the transaction in the past, AI remembers it for me and I can skip the whole research process. Again, saving a ton of time.
There are many different ways that QuickBooks uses AI and is developing even more that will allow us to get rid of the meticulous management of the information into a role where we can use that extra time to truly understand what is happening with the business and create suggestions that will benefit it. Up until now, most accountants have been just trying to get through the work and end up running out of time to put towards activities that increase overall value.
The AI End Game
Yes, it is scary that a non human "entity" could actually do the work that we do in accounting. But, will they be able to do everything that encompasses being an accountant?
I don't believe that AI will overtake all aspects of this job or finance work in general. We still have a human element that needs to be addressed within financial environments.
Why do we need a human accountant?
Because the owners of the businesses we are serving are human, and in order to make informed decisions, we need each other, emotions and all.
So yes AI, go ahead and take away all those little tasks that don't take a ton of brain power and free me up to ensure the overall arching accounting accuracy is there and deliver a product to my clients that they can get a hefty return on.
Blue Collar CFO