With bookkeeping software leaders Bill.com and Intuit incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their products, it is clear that AI is playing a role in the bookkeeping field. How much of a role will AI play, and how will it impact bookkeeping services and businesses?
“Finance leaders will oversee the transition as robots take on more and more back-office functions … freeing people to grapple with high-level analysis and decision making that add value rather than ticking off to-dos.”
Building a Better Toolbox
The terms “artificial intelligence” and “robot” scare some people, perhaps because they bring to mind dystopian science-fiction movies. But in reality, AI and robots are merely extensions of the kinds of tools most of us already use, like Google for online searches. And now the same basic principles are being refined for various specialized uses in the bookkeeping services field.
So, really, AI is nothing more than another step in the progression from the abacus to the adding machine to the calculator to the cloud. More and more companies such as Intuit and Bill.com are recognizing opportunities to link and sync their AI and machine-learning capabilities to further streamline customer service and create new efficiencies.
Still Touched by Human Hands
The goal of AI in fields such as bookkeeping is not to eliminate bookkeepers, it's to automate routine functions, thus freeing up the bookkeeper's time to analyze and interpret data in a way that enables the business leader to make better, more informed decisions.
As Dennis Najjar writes, "AI can do amazing things, but it's not so good at the many things humans do naturally. We make a lot of decisions based on context."
As an example, Najjar cites the challenges posed by the morass of different tax codes and regulations from town to town and state to state — to say nothing of from one country to another. He notes that "no artificial intelligence algorithms that can sort out these complex interactions currently exist," and that hands-on, human input remains necessary "to ensure that compliance requirements are met and financial controls are sound."
In addition to handling tasks such as revenue recognition, customer invoicing, accounts receivable and accounts payable, high-level bookkeepers provide financial insights into such areas as capitalizing on growth opportunities and finding ways to become more profitable. Bookkeepers will be able to use AI as another tool that will help them provide insight and analytics that inform business leaders’ decisions.