From XU Magazine, 
Issue 35

AI: Enhancing Accountancy’s Human Touch

Welcome to the era of artificial intelligence (AI) in accounting. An industry largely based on data analysis and precise calculations, accounting is ready for AI integration. The adoption of AI can revolutionize traditional accounting practices, making them more efficient, accurate, and insightful.
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In the future, successful accountants will be those who embrace these technologies and use them effectively, while maintaining their professional judgment and personal touch in client relationships. A “technologically adept human touch” will become the new gold standard in accountancy.

How did we get here?

AI models have been in use for some time. However, a renaissance period of AI was ushered in November 2022, with the release of ChatGPT, a generative pre-trained transformer. This AI language model, thanks to its easy user interface and public access, allowed anyone to start interacting with AI.

ChatGPT proved to be a versatile tool, and interest in AI has skyrocketed. There are now many other publicly accessible AIs, like Google’s Bard or Anthropic’s Claude, and various purpose-built apps based on these and other AI models.

So, how can this benefit your business? How can you start using AI? What should you consider? How can you and your firm adopt an AI-first approach? Let’s explore.

Automation: The First Step towards AI

Many firms still rely too heavily on manual work, where basic automation could streamline their processes. Automation reduces manual errors and saves time. Tools like Datamolino demonstrate this advantage, by automating data entry and categorization of bills and receipts, reducing manual work and margin for error.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely using (or considering) Xero. The Xero ecosystem is a great place to start with automation, with over 1000 apps enhancing Xero’s functionality. Start with automating repetitive, well-defined tasks. Apps that automate data entry of invoices and receipts, help businesses with payments, cash flow management, and reporting, should be your first consideration.

Automation first, Artificial intelligence second

AI takes automation a step further by mimicking human intelligence and improving over time. Unlike traditional automation, AI can analyze large data volumes, identify trends, make predictions, and automate complex tasks. However, it’s crucial to understand that AI, like humans, isn’t infallible and its performance can be affected by biased or incomplete data.

Transitioning from traditional automation software to AI is a paradigm shift. Traditional software follows pre-programmed instructions, while AI learns, adapts, and improves over time. This learning capability is a game-changer, enabling AI to handle unexpected scenarios and produce more accurate results, enhancing accountancy practices.

How can your business become AI-first with Xero?

The good news is, you’re probably already using AI. Xero uses AI to streamline data entry and classification tasks. Automated data entry tools like Datamolino use AI to capture data from your invoices and receipts. Other apps in the Xero ecosystem leverage AI, bringing innovation to your doorstep. Exploring the Xero ecosystem and understanding how it can help you today is crucial. Likely, it will be one of these apps that brings the AI capabilities your firm needs.

So, what about ChatGPT?

AI models like ChatGPT go beyond simplifying tasks. They possess unique capabilities such as understanding context, generating text, and making predictions based on the data fed to them.

If you haven’t yet explored what ChatGPT can do, now may be a good time to start. You can experiment with these models. They can create text summaries of lengthy documents, assist with writing tasks, and even interpret data to some extent, enhancing productivity and efficiency.

Should you be worried if you’re not a ChatGPT prompt professional?

The AI landscape is in its infancy and evolving rapidly. New tools are emerging every day. You can expect companies like Microsoft and Google to integrate the best capabilities directly into your email, word processor, or spreadsheet software in the near future.

The technology is rapidly improving, and skills acquired today, such as prompting, can become obsolete quickly. I advise positioning your business to benefit from AI-infused tools by eliminating your technical debt. Revise your technology stack and ensure you’re using the current apps to their fullest potential. Likely, these apps will provide all the AI capabilities you’ll need in the near future.

Striking the Right Balance of Technology and Human Touch

Embracing AI-infused tools is more than adopting new technologies; it’s about strategic transformation. We must understand where these tools can add value, where caution is necessary, and how they can redefine roles and relationships. By doing so, we can chart a future for accountancy that is efficient, accurate, and value-driven.

Accountants still play a crucial role in client relationships, interpreting data, and making strategic decisions. In the future, successful accountants will be those who embrace these technologies and use them effectively, while maintaining their professional judgment and personal touch in client relationships. A “technologically adept human touch” will become the new gold standard in accountancy.

Why leave it there?

To get started with automated data entry

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