Automation nation: Ava, the digital accountant of 2024by
To look into a specific aspect of accounting automation, we’re going to be focusing on a typical morning for Ava, a chartered accountant running her own small firm in mid-2024.
Ava started the firm during the Covid lockdowns of 2021 after six years working in corporate tax for a Big Four firm. After three years as a sole practitioner largely catering for self-employed and sole traders, Ava has recently experienced a spike in client numbers and has recently taken on help to meet this growing demand.
On the morning in question, Ava logs in to find that three pieces of client correspondence have arrived while she’s been offline. One self-employed client is applying for a loan and needs several supporting documents, another has a query about the timeline for submitting tax documentation, and a third is from a friend she acts for. The friend is worried about her cashflow situation and has asked for a chat about it.
A counterpart of Ava’s operating in the mid-2000s may well have had a similar start to the day and spent the morning replying to the emails, locating and scanning the documents and going back and forth via email to book the meeting.
However, it’s 2024, and waiting in Ava’s draft folder when she logs in are three replies to the clients’ queries for her consideration.
The first reply is a polite, professional response with all the requested documentation attached, including the client’s latest SA302 and the last three months’ bank statements.
The second answers the client’s question about the tax timeline, providing a detailed breakdown of what documentation is due and by when.
The third reply is written in a less formal, reassuring tone and contains a meeting booking for the afternoon, which the friend has already accepted. A slide deck for the meeting has already been prepared, containing several graphs of key business performance indicators and a number of bullet-pointed suggestions for how the client could boost the bottom line.
As you may have guessed already, all three replies have been almost instantaneously prepared using a generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool provided by Ava’s practice management software. This is linked to her email solution, financial management system, tax software and calendar tool via application programming interface (API) connections, allowing the tool specifically pre-defined access to the information needed to answer basic client queries.
Rather than spend the morning writing replies, locating and scanning documentation and wrangling calendar invitations – or hiring a junior member of staff to do so – Ava can use the morning to focus on the job she has been trained to do. She can examine the draft emails, and using her subject matter expertise and knowledge of the client’s personality and business model, Ava can add detail and correct any errors before pushing send on the emails and moving on to her next task.
Alternative guide to solving your skills crunch
Download our special editorial report to discover practical strategies and real-life examples for recruitment, retention and using outsourcing and automation as alternative solutions.
Shift in mindset
As with any new generation of tools, using this piece of software has required a shift in both the way Ava runs her firm and her mindset towards her work. While it has always been essential to check client communications, careful checking of copy and attachments has now become paramount as the tool has the habit of occasionally misunderstanding less formal language, or if a document that should be there is not, substituting another from the same client.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Ava feels that using the tool has led to improved efficiency in her practice, her role becoming deeper and more rewarding, and allowing her to develop client relationships, work on practice growth or spend more time with her family.
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.