Collecting and analyzing reams of financial data is an important part of an accountant’s job. From this data, the accountant is expected to extract nuggets of information about a business’s health and functionality.
Historically, this work has been performed solely by the accountant, with no technical help. Today, however, a multitude of computer-based tools are available to assist in financial analysis tasks. One of the most prominent tools is artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is a computer science term describing a computer’s ability to replicate the learning, assessment, problem-solving and decision-making abilities of humans. The purpose of artificial intelligence in accounting is to increase efficiency in essential and foundational routines and practices in a way that ultimately leads to better business decisions.
Prospective accountants can develop the advanced skills to excel in today’s technology-driven environment through academic accountancy programs such as an online Master of Accountancy.
What Can AI Do?
To fully appreciate AI’s growing application as a viable business tool, it’s important to understand what AI can do. Its capabilities can be embraced in the business world because they point to the creation and development of a more efficient corporate community.
For example, artificial intelligence programs do more than perform advanced mathematical calculations — they read and write, too. AI programs can leverage their ability to parse news articles, emails, weblinks and legal documents to choose and present the most salient parts to comprehend. This same ability can be used to gather and analyze information to produce written content that can accurately summarize data.
AI also offers the opportunity to extend the senses, which can have numerous business applications. For instance, AI’s ability to deploy machine vision can allow it to make informed decisions that can have a positive impact on quality control and other supply chain elements that are important to business efficiency. AI-based programs built to pick up and interpret sounds can help busy professionals automate meeting minutes. Speech-based AI can make it possible for businesses to schedule key appointments and complete phone-based tasks without the need to allocate an employee’s time to do so.
While some of AI’s capabilities do indeed involve autonomous machines, these devices aren’t poised to take over the world. Devices like drones and robots can be used to handle rudimentary tasks at efficient speed, which can then free up individuals to do more advanced tasks. This extra time can allow individuals to have greater personal bandwidth, which could ultimately lead to more robust professional growth.
AI and Accounting
Although AI is useful in nearly every area of business, it has proven truly revolutionary in the accounting arena. Instead of spending days combing through columns of numbers, accountants can now extract the information they need with the click of a button. Not only is this a massive time saver, but it also provides more targeted data.
Data is a foundational element in AI and accounting. AI’s capacity to gather, organize, analyze and interpret numerical information can make it a valuable tool for an accountant. When its capacity is utilized fully and properly, artificial intelligence in accounting makes it possible for a company to build a more holistic accounting strategy, one that can be built on more efficient bookkeeping and financial accessibility.
Ultimately, regarding AI as an accounting tool is an important distinction for an accountant to make. AI isn’t meant to integrate with an accounting department to squeeze out the human element involved in a company’s financial oversight. It’s meant to enhance a department’s ability to provide the most accurate financial information possible. This makes AI something not to fear, but instead, embrace. Besides, no matter how sophisticated or fast an AI-based algorithm gets, there is still no replacement for the human element when it comes to applying information derived from data into a real-world financial strategy.
The Benefits of AI
AI’s ability to easily extract data is undeniably convenient for accountants. But it also adds significant value that goes beyond convenience.
A solid AI program adds efficiency to the accountant role. This spares the accountant from having to conduct activities such as gathering data for audits or analyzing organizational expenses. These actions tend to take up a lot of time and energy, which could take time away from other important duties like strategic financial development and maintaining regulatory compliance.
Integrating AI into accounting can also increase accuracy and reduce human error. This can further streamline the accounting process, as minimizing mistakes naturally translates into less time having to discover, track down and correct errors. From a big-picture standpoint, this can also potentially make a business less subject to large-scale accounting issues like missed payments or tax penalties.
Another benefit of AI in accounting is the ability to reduce the risk of fraud. Because artificial intelligence can audit every document related to finance, it can detect irregularities and alert accountants to their presence. While this can stop small, honest mistakes from transforming into much larger issues, it can also bring attention to large-scale suspicious behavior in a rapid manner.
Prepare for the Future of Accounting
Accountants everywhere are seeing what artificial intelligence in accounting can do for them. They are increasingly adopting this technology and discovering that they become better and more effective at their jobs as a result. It is a sea change that is permanently shifting the role and the importance of accountants — for the better.
Earning an advanced accounting degree, such as a Master of Accountancy, can help students gain expertise in accounting principles and the skills to experience the profession at its most innovative level. Furthermore, when artificial intelligence is allowed to perform rudimentary or time-consuming accounting tasks, it can enable professionals to stand out and assume more important work. It can empower them to help build accounting and financial strategies that can take an organization to the next level.
Whether you are new to the field of accounting or an established accounting professional, learn how the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Accountancy can prepare you for a career in this rapidly changing field.