They’re already here, but “death by technology” in the accounting field is still a matter of choice
The rumor’s been going around for a while now. The accounting industry has been rife with the prediction of a slow but sure death, no thanks to the arrival of technology. According to Accenture, 80 percent of accounting and finance tasks will be delivered with automation by 2020.
For some accounting professionals bracing for the shift, the future seems to be showing them the door. But data from a recent survey by TSheets reveals otherwise. We asked 500 people throughout the US who (or what) they are more comfortable sharing sensitive financial information with, and their answer speaks volumes.
Small business owners say technology is a friend
Intuit recently partnered with Emergent Research to survey how US-based small business owners and managers feel toward automation technologies. Not surprising, there’s little doom-and-gloom attitude when it comes to adopting technology.
Key findings reveal:
- 79 percent see automation “freeing up time to get more work done.”
- 66 percent are already using some form of automation in their business, with finance and billing in the lead (29 percent).
- 54 percent say they see automation as an opportunity.
- Only 1 percent say they feel significant job reductions are imminent due to automation technology.
For accounting professionals whose customers are primarily small business owners, they must pivot away from solely crunching data and focus on leveraging the benefits of technology.
Solutions versus tools
Data interaction in finance and accounting is a complex, time-consuming, and, at times, frustrating process. Cloud-based AI applications employ machine learning to do the hard work of query and analysis. It’s a tool that accountants (the solution) use.
The tool empowers the solution, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Remember when spreadsheets (another tool) first arrived on the scene? It didn’t kill off jobs. Instead, the professionals (the solution) who learned how to use them became more productive and more employable.
The key to any challenge is to pair the right tool with the right solution. Accounting professionals who leverage the power of AI and automation will manage their clients better while bettering themselves in the process.
Opportunity in automation
In 2016, we wrote the “robots are taking your job, and you should let them,” concluding automation and machines can take on menial, secondary tasks that take time away from professionals developing their core skills. In that article, we also quoted Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired, a monthly magazine that focuses on how emerging technologies are affecting culture.
He said, “we need to let robots take over. They will do jobs we have been doing, and do them much better than we can. They will do jobs we can’t do at all. They will do jobs we never imagined even needed to be done. And they will help us discover new jobs for ourselves, [and] new tasks that expand who we are … ”
This definitely still feels true today.
“We need to let robots take over. They will do jobs we have been doing, and do them much better than we can. They will do jobs we can’t do at all. They will do jobs we never imagined even needed to be done. And they will help us discover new jobs for ourselves, new tasks that expand who we are …”
-Kevin Kelly, Wired
Gartner predicts 1.8 million jobs will be lost to AI, but it will also help to create 2.3 million new jobs. With the simpler tasks passed off to machines, the human advisors have more time to refine the art and science of their profession, while nurturing business and client relationships — all traits beyond the scope of robots.
Is machine learning disrupting the accounting profession? Absolutely. Is Fintech the future of financial services sector? Most definitely. But it’s also clear that as much as the world of startups has benefited greatly from the ease and comfort of technology, the men and women in business are not ready to operate without their trusted human counterparts and advisors.
And just as Auerswald places his faith in the people and the entrepreneurial spirit, small business accounting will continue to put accounting professionals first, with the help of technology.
Added value: Being human
Economist Philip Auerswald wrote in his book “The Coming Prosperity” that in the course of history, whenever machines and tools substituted one type of human capability, it brought forth new human experiences and emotions
Automation was not created to be alone in the future. It’s designed to complement human endeavors so we can succeed together. The choice to join or resist, however, is completely yours.