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AccountingWEB

AI and automation: Augmentation, not replacement

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While technology undoubtedly speeds up some of the more time-consuming aspects of accounting work, it is not a magic solution to the skills shortage. Jonathan Bareham, director of Raedan, says human expertise remains essential in building a successful firm.

18th Jul 2023
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As a profession known for its meticulous and labour-intensive work, accounting has found a successful partnership with automation. However, as technology continues its rapid advancement and society grapples with increasingly powerful automation tools, critics raise concerns about whether this love affair with machines could further exacerbate the profession’s skills gap problem.

For those looking to grasp the automation nettle, its utility remains a nuanced question. Jonathan Bareham, director of Raedan, acknowledges this and emphasises that when used correctly, firms can harness the power of automation to their advantage.

“When we started the firm, it was crucial to incorporate technology as it undoubtedly speeds up some of the more time-consuming aspects of our work,” Bareham explained.

“The new generation of clients conducts business online and uses technology to drive their operations forward. As an accountant, if you don’t adapt, you risk becoming obsolete. While there are still people who prefer paper-based processes, that won’t last forever.”

No magic bullet

Bareham empathises with critics’ concerns and points out that automation and technological investment are not magic solutions, especially when it comes to addressing the skills shortage. He argues that integrating technology can be a “double-edged sword”.

“Undoubtedly, technology brings efficiencies that may require a slightly smaller team and less investment. However, you still need people who can perform the job and understand the technology.”

Although Bareham acknowledges that some firms have resorted to offshoring and outsourcing to fill the gaps, he explains that automation alone cannot solve the industry’s problems and that human expertise remains essential in building a successful firm.

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“We need to dispel the myth that accounting is solely a maths-focused, spreadsheet-laden job. It’s no longer just about numbers; it’s a tech-savvy and human-focused profession. To counteract the skills crisis, we need individuals with a broader skill set.”

An exciting future

Looking ahead, Bareham is excited about new automation technologies, particularly with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) disrupting the way we work. However, he advises caution, comparing asking accounting questions to systems like ChatGPT to “asking a junior”.

“I believe automation will have a role to play. Currently, using it directly for advisory purposes would be risky. However, it represents the next step in the digitisation of accountancy over the past 15 years, starting with assisting accountants in supporting clients.”

Returning to the future of the skills shortage, Bareham offers a different perspective on the accounting profession in the era of new automation technologies. He argues that roles once deemed obsolete will find new life in the AI era, while more traditional roles may be at greater risk.

“There has been much talk in the past decade about automation eradicating bookkeeping. Personally, I believe that’s nonsense because bookkeeping involves human connectivity between financials and clients. Instead, it’s the more traditional accountant’s role that is likely more vulnerable,” Bareham noted.

“All in all, automation is going to revolutionise our profession, but it needs human oversight, understanding and interpretation – it’s about augmentation, not replacement,” he concluded.

This article is an extract from our new editorial special report:“Alternative guide to solving your skills crunch”. Download the free guide to discover practical strategies and real-life examples for recruitment, retention and using outsourcing and automation as alternative solutions.

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By JustAnotherUser
18th Jul 2023 13:28

Just for fun I asked it and AI Agrees with the author..

Title: The Indispensable Role of Human Expertise in Building a Successful Accountancy Firm

Introduction:

In today's technology-driven world, where automation and artificial intelligence are rapidly advancing, it is easy to assume that human expertise is becoming less relevant. However, in the realm of accountancy, human expertise remains essential in building a successful firm. While technology has undoubtedly transformed the industry, it is the unique skills and capabilities of accountants that enable firms to thrive. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why human expertise continues to be irreplaceable in the context of accountancy firms.

Strategic Decision-Making:
Accountancy is not merely about crunching numbers and generating reports. It requires strategic decision-making to help clients navigate complex financial landscapes. Human accountants possess the ability to analyze data, interpret trends, and provide valuable insights based on their expertise and experience. They can assess a client's financial situation holistically, taking into account various external factors and industry-specific knowledge. This strategic acumen allows accountants to offer tailored advice, formulate effective financial strategies, and make informed decisions that go beyond what automation can provide.

Relationship Building:
Accounting is a client-centric profession, heavily reliant on trust and relationships. While technology can streamline certain processes, it lacks the interpersonal skills necessary for building and maintaining strong client connections. Human accountants excel in communication, empathy, and understanding client needs. They can actively listen, ask pertinent questions, and provide personalized guidance. These skills foster long-term partnerships and enable accountants to address clients' unique challenges effectively. The personal touch and attention to detail offered by human experts play a vital role in cultivating client loyalty and satisfaction.

Complex Problem Solving:
The field of accountancy often presents intricate challenges that require critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. While automation can handle routine tasks, it may struggle to address complex issues that demand adaptability, creativity, and contextual knowledge. Human accountants possess the ability to analyze complex financial scenarios, identify patterns, and devise innovative solutions. They can apply their expertise to navigate through regulatory changes, tax implications, and financial risks, helping clients make sound decisions and mitigate potential pitfalls.

Ethical Decision-Making:
Accountants are entrusted with handling sensitive financial information and upholding ethical standards. Human expertise plays a crucial role in navigating ethical dilemmas and ensuring compliance with professional codes of conduct. While automation can facilitate data accuracy and security, it lacks the moral judgment and ethical decision-making capabilities inherent in human professionals. Accountants are trained to consider the wider implications of their actions, protect client confidentiality, and make ethically sound choices. Human expertise is indispensable in maintaining integrity and trust within the profession.

Adaptability and Continuous Learning:
The world of finance is ever-evolving, with new regulations, technologies, and business models constantly emerging. Human accountants possess the adaptability and resilience to stay abreast of these changes and continuously update their skills. They engage in ongoing professional development, attend industry conferences, and actively participate in knowledge-sharing networks. This commitment to learning allows them to remain at the forefront of industry trends, offer innovative solutions, and adapt their services to meet evolving client needs.

Conclusion:

While automation and technology have undoubtedly transformed the field of accountancy, human expertise remains essential in building a successful accountancy firm. Strategic decision-making, relationship building, complex problem-solving, ethical decision-making, and adaptability are all areas where human accountants excel. By harnessing the power of technology while leveraging the unique skills of their human experts, accountancy firms can provide valuable insights, build strong client relationships, and navigate the complexities of the financial world effectively. The future of the industry lies in the seamless integration of human expertise and technology, resulting in a powerful combination that drives success and delivers exceptional client service.

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Replying to JustAnotherUser:
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By Hugo Fair
18th Jul 2023 20:29

Hmm ... so it looks like the threat from ChatGPT mk10 will not be to Accountants.

Bad luck, Will!

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By Hugo Fair
21st Jul 2023 20:50

Better news for you, Will ... https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-66266344

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