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Bookkeeping Automation Doesn’t Replace Bookkeepers – Here’s Why

29th May 2024
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Dext provide digital tools that help accountants and bookkeepers like you to automatically and intelligently process and analyse financial data.

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Whether you’re a fan of AI-driven automation tools or you’re still sceptical about their benefits, there’s no denying that bookkeeping automation is here to stay. 

Digital tools that automate bookkeeping tasks have become part of the fabric of daily life for many bookkeepers. Themes like AI and machine learning have dominated conversations at Accountex since 2017 and, as technology has developed over the years, evolving AI trends in accounting are on the radar of most industry leaders.

With AI taking care of day-to-day bookkeeping tasks like data entry, expense management and bank reconciliation, you might be wondering what the future holds for bookkeepers in an industry that’s increasingly driven by automation. You might even be wondering if there will still be a role for bookkeepers in years to come. The outlook is far more exciting than many might think.

In this article, we outline the applications and limitations of bookkeeping automation and present an exciting vision for the future of work for bookkeepers.

How bookkeeping automation can support bookkeepers

AI-driven tools and software are designed to make traditional bookkeeping tasks more efficient, more accurate and far less time-consuming. Here are just some of the ways in which they can do that:

  • Tools powered by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology capture receipts, invoices and bank transactions and extract the data automatically. This takes virtually all of the manual labour out of data entry when it comes to recording invoices, expenses and bank transactions. 
  • Some of these tools – like Dext – go a step further and suggest categories for accounting transactions. This saves a huge amount of time when it comes to the often tedious task of managing invoices and expenses. 
  • Many bookkeeping automation tools make it easier for you to collaborate with clients, empowering them to keep their own records up to date with user-friendly mobile applications.
  • By creating and categorising transactions automatically based on captured data, many AI-driven bookkeeping tools make the bank reconciliation process faster and more accurate,  

Ultimately, bookkeeping tools are designed to support the work of bookkeepers by delivering the outputs they need quickly and accurately and freeing them up to focus on more valuable tasks. 

Think of using bookkeeping automation as enlisting the help of a trustworthy, highly collaborative assistant who can get on with day-to-day tasks while you concentrate on more meaningful work.

What bookkeepers can do that bookkeeping automation can’t 

While there are plenty of bookkeeping tasks that automation can take care of, there remain many aspects of a bookkeeper’s role that demand the human touch. 

AI-driven bookkeeping tools are not capable of cultivating meaningful relationships with clients, for example. AI can’t consider nuanced scenarios or think strategically, nor can it make judgement calls or provide tactical advice or guidance. The good news is that when tedious bookkeeping tasks are automated, bookkeepers finally have the time to engage in these crucial value-adding activities.

Human judgement is also required when it comes to reviewing the output of automation tools. Writing on the topic of AI and human accountability, Stephen Edgington, our Chief Product and Technology Officer here at Dext, says: “The role of human oversight remains critical in ensuring that the output generated by AI is reliable and accurate”. 

This echoes the ICAEW’s warning that advisors must check the output of generative AI, referencing ChatGPT’s tendency to “hallucinate” and deliver false information when it doesn’t know the answer to a user’s question.

No matter how much support AI-driven automation tools can provide, it’s clear that the need for human input isn’t going anywhere.

The future of work for bookkeepers

Bookkeepers who use automation tools are already experiencing the benefits of improved efficiency and accuracy, as well as time to spend on more meaningful work. As technology continues to evolve it will likely be possible to automate an increasing number of other bookkeeping tasks, and tools will be able to perform these tasks with higher levels of accuracy. 

The impact on bookkeepers? Even greater opportunity to expand their remit into exciting new territory.  

From data processor to strategic business consultant

Historically, bookkeepers have struggled to find the time to do more than simply process their clients’ data. Bookkeepers had deep insight into their clients’ businesses but were unable to apply it in a material way.

With technology taking care of many of those data processing tasks – and more tasks likely to be automated in the future – bookkeepers have the opportunity to put all that insight to use and deliver strategic business support to their clients.

Highly astute at spotting patterns and trends in their clients’ figures, bookkeepers can provide real-time insight into the health of their clients’ businesses. And with MTD ITSA (Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment) coming into effect from April 2026 bookkeepers are likely to take the lead on handling quarterly touchpoints with clients. This will offer even more scope for them to use their deep knowledge of their clients’ business performance to provide strategic advice and support. 

The cadence of quarterly reporting under MTD ITSA will also provide opportunities for bookkeepers and accountants to work more collaboratively, particularly when it comes to preparing clients’ annual declarations. 

Of course, none of this would be possible if bookkeepers were still trapped in the endless cycle of processing client data. With bookkeeping automation now doing much of the heavy lifting, the role of the bookkeeper is finally able to transform into one that offers true client value and far greater career satisfaction. As business health consultants for clients, bookkeepers are set to become not only more strategic and purposeful but – ultimately – irreplaceable. 

Looking for a bookkeeping automation tool that will free you from data processing and help you become a strategic business consultant to your clients? Say hello to Dext.