Technology & Innovation

Want AI and automation for your practice? Here’s what you need to know

Learn how accountants can use AI and automation to deal with admin, manage manual processes and grow their practices.

Do you want to use artificial intelligence (AI) and automation for your practice?

In 2018, when Sage commissioned research for the Power of Now report, 66% of accountants would invest in AI if it automated time-consuming and repetitive tasks.

Today, the possibilities of AI and automation have expanded exponentially.

So where do you start with AI in your accountancy practice?

This article will explore some of the options out there for you.

Here’s what we cover:

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Automation for your practice

At one point, automation was only able to perform its programmed functions.

But now, with AI integration, it can learn, analyse, and adapt to your individual business needs.

From time-savings to useful process suggestions, the addition of AI to automation has revealed its benefits.

Stay informed–and understand the benefits of automation and AI

Keeping informed of technological change can be difficult but the fact you’re reading this article is a step in the right direction. You might also consider monitoring information coming from trade organisations both here and overseas.

For example, in 2023 the ICEAW published a major report on AI within accountancy.

The ACCA also published a report looking at AI in accountancy in this recent example.

However, it’s not just you personally who should be aiming to stay informed.

You should be encouraging your colleagues to keep ahead of the changes because AI is likely to bring a cultural and institutional change within your practice if it hasn’t already started.

The benefits of using automation powered by AI are becoming clear.

Using AI tools can save you time, take the pain out of your previously manual processes, and give you deeper and broader insights for reporting.

As just one example, basic accounting tasks are often ascribed to apprentices or trainees.

Yet with AI starting to take care of them it’s likely that newcomers to the industry will be starting at a fundamentally higher level.

This is no bad thing.

Research has shown that young people entering the industry today have little tolerance for basic tasks, which can lead to high staff turnover.

Using AI to cut out the manual admin tasks will improve your practice’s reputation and have a knock-on effect on the culture.

This means you’ll also retain staff and attract new talent because they know their time will be spent on the most important tasks: building the client base through human-to-human relationships and focusing on strategic decision-making.

Once you understand the benefits of using AI in your accountancy practice, you can better explain it to your clients.

This is especially important if they are still using siloed technology.

That’s where you can help by understanding the technology, you can advise them on how to make the switch over.

Helping them explore how cloud-based, AI-powered solutions can supercharge their business will only add more value to your practice.

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Experience new efficiencies with AI and automation

From handheld calculators to cloud computing, the industry has been tied to technology in a three-legged race since the 1960s with each providing breakthrough vital functionality.

Your existing accountancy and client management software is being updated to reflect current advances in technology.

AI will be an extension of existing features you already use, and you might not even notice its presence.

But you will notice an increase in efficiency, both in the processes you used to employ and your own workload management.

That bank account reconciliation and coding will require noticeably less intervention on your behalf, for example.

Your practice management software will be more proactive when it comes to assigning resources because it’s learned about seasonality and the flow of your client data.

Give AI and automation time

New technology requires that we invest time to make it all work, of course, and get the most out of it.

But sometimes it needs more than this. It requires us to give it the benefit of the doubt.

AI is gathering pace in the industry and as with any technology, you’ll have to find the best way of exploiting it for your practice.

As with any new technology, there will be a learning curve.

AI requires an initial need to train it by using it a few times so it can understand your usual processes.

In the lower-level examples of machine learning when taking care of the basic tasks, this will again require patience–just as it would require patience to train a human.

Final thoughts

The benefits of using AI and automation for your practice are clear.

The right tools will act like an assistant, helping to facilitate tasks with ease, and continue to automate the processes most useful to your business.

And AI will adapt and learn so it changes with your business, supporting it every step of the way.

In other words, the investment in AI is going to be more than technological or financial.

As Sage CEO Steve Hare says: “This new wave of AI has the potential to run your business in entirely new ways.”

Editor’s note: This article was first published in May 2018 and has been updated for relevance.