The term 'Artificial Intelligence' (AI) conjures up a number of feelings -- excitement, intrigue, fear and even anger. It has evolved from being a buzz-word to becoming a reality in many professional environments.
For some in the accountancy industry, the new-age of AI and machine learning has caused question about jobs, with click-bait media headlines only adding fuel to the fire.
However, now is the time to future-proof our industry and adopt the changes that will, I believe, make our profession stronger. It will allow the industry to enhance itself, making it faster, more accurate and more efficient.
Through AI and machine learning, human skills will be enhanced, eliminating tedious, repetitive and menial manual tasks, allowing accountants to become more productive and concentrate on higher value offerings.
Far from the sensationalist headline that robots are stealing your jobs, machine learning would eliminate the time consuming and menial jobs that prevent accountants from spending more time with their clients, offering higher value services. Manually, a tedious task and a job that could take several hours, now, with the new technology, can be completed in a matter of minutes with a couple of mouse clicks.
Accounting software, like Xero, is constantly getting smarter, automatically performing analysis which previously required human intervention. Consider tasks like bank reconciliations, data verifications, categorising expenditure or chasing for invoices.
At Xero, machine learning is something we have been working on for many years and see much opportunity in – in fact, in the coming years we expect it has the potential to make predictions for business owners. We've already built software functions such as 'Find and Recode'. At the forefront of innovation, it streamlined the process for accountants and bookkeepers to search for, retrieve and fix miscoded invoice transactions. Since the feature was released, we have seen more than 3m posting corrections done by accountants and bookkeepers every month.
It’s not only internal data from which machines learn and provide AI insights. The Hey Xero chatbot, for example, is being designed to integrate financial information with that from Facebook Messenger. It'll make use of machine learning technology and transactional data processed in Xero to enable businesses to query their latest financial data, including who owes them money, when their next bill is due, or how much money is in their bank account. It can connect you to the Xero advisor directory and can recommend a suitable accountant or bookkeeper in their area.
AI offers endless opportunities and at Xero we intend to embrace it wholeheartedly. Machine learning cannot match human brain power, but it can augment it. A system machine cannot think like you do – however, it can make your life, and the life of your clients and colleagues, a lot easier.
Xero is hosting an event on Tuesday 13th June as part of London Tech Week, on AI and its impact on accounting. Click here for more information.