More than half of 3,000 accountants polled by Sage said they planned to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) to automate how they run their firms in the next three years.
After wading through a period of professional fear and uncertainty over what automation would do to their jobs, the world’s accountants are now accepting AI as a means to speed up the collection and reconciliation of data so they can devote more time to analysing the figures and advising clients.
Sage’s Practice of Now 2018 study surveyed 3,000 accountants around the world and found that two thirds were willing to invest in AI to reduce their administrative burden and automate time-consuming tasks such as data entry, email and diary management.
According to Sage vice president of AI Kriti Sharma, the search for time-saving solutions is driven by the need to provide higher value consultancy services, a need that 42% of clients expressed.
This acceleration of AI adoption will continue, she explained in the report. Already, many accountants and businesses are using AI within cloud apps such as Sage, Google, Amazon and Netflix without realising it.
“Over the next two to three years we’ll see the expansion or the applications of AI becoming much broader. And this will be at the front end, where users work, because at the moment there’s a lot of magic happening behind the scenes,” Sharma said.
“It’s not about AI working in isolation and gaining human level accuracy. Or an accountant trying to do everything by themselves. It’s about combining the two together. For example, AI can flag the anomalies, saving time and resources, making the accountant more productive. Man and machine working together.”
While the shift in practitioner attitudes towards AI is the most startling finding, the Practice of Now report ranges across a number of issues including technology habits and cloud adoption, the evolution of advisory services and the increasingly competitive state of the UK accountancy market.
These topics will be covered more extensively at the live Sage Sessions event in Bristol next Wednesday, 21 March.