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Close-up of of the icon of the ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot app logo on a cellphone screen

Should accountants be using ChatGPT at all?


While new artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT have the accounting industry abuzz with interest, a panel of accountants has cautioned against wandering too far down the path of generative AI at this “early adopter” stage of the technology.

2nd Mar 2023
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Technology oracles have predicted a tidal wave of new artificial intelligence products, with generative AI tools promising new efficiencies and ways of working across a swathe of professions and industries, including accountancy.

But while the new tech solutions are still in their infancy, is it the best use of accountants’ time to go too far down the generative AI rabbit hole in search of performance enhancements? And how much do we know about the tools at the forefront of this emerging ecosystem?

Note of caution

Speaking on the latest Tech Pulse show, a quartet of tech-focused accountants outlined the opportunities software such as ChatGPT and others could bring to the profession. However, they also sounded a note of caution when it came to integrating such tools too deeply into their workflows at this point in their development. 

The speed with which this new generation of tools is being adopted is unsurpassed in modern technology cycles, with Microsoft already integrating ChatGPT into its search engine Bing and Azure cloud platform. Third-party applications linking generative AI tools to Excel and Word have already been developed, with embedded, native versions reported to be in development. Usage in the accountancy profession has so far centred on writing marketing materials or generating content ideas, but panellists on the show flagged that it could soon be used to respond to client emails, produce financial statements or design audit tests.

While hopes are high that this new breed of AI tools can help the accountancy profession find efficiencies, they are still very much at a beta stage and the panel tackled the question of whether it is worth all but the most “bleeding edge” tech-friendly accountants getting involved at this stage.

Des O’Neill, director of accounting firm consultants OmniPro, called the developments “the next evolution of what we’re not going to have to do as accountants”. While O’Neill urged accountants to keep an open mind about generative AI products, play with the tools and be ready to “surf the wave” as Open AI comes through the profession, he also cautioned that the conversation should be about what the “true experts” are going to do with artificial intelligence that will make accountants’ lives easier on a day-to-day basis.

Sit back and wait

“I learned fairly early on that being an unpaid beta tester for software is not a fun place to be,” added accountant and small business expert Carl Reader. “The ones sitting back and waiting for everyone else to make the mistakes and to iron out the bugs are the clever ones.

“My concern is that accountants are going to get wrapped up in the current hype, and there’s no need to,” continued Reader. “People are going to end up spending a lot of time on this thinking they need to get involved when they’re not using the technology they currently have properly, so trying to do something else is just going to be overwhelming.”

Louisa Matheson, digital programme manager at training provider First Intuition, stated that accountants should be aware of the fact that the basic version of ChatGPT has limitations. “It is drawing on a huge amount of information,” she said, “but only up to 2021. That’s going to change quickly as the newer models and newer versions come out which will have access to up-to-date information, but it’s definitely something to be mindful of when using it at the moment.”

Sensitive data concerns

Billie Mcloughlin, practice consultant at 2020 Innovation, has run several sessions for accountants on generative AI and ChatGPT. One point she stresses at the start of each session is that accountants should not add sensitive client information directly to any of the tools currently available, citing concerns about where the data may end up.

Mcloughlin added that several 2020 members are using generative AI, including one who put together a full audit report using dummy data as a test.

“It was pretty comprehensive, a long report with pretty much all of the points that a human would have made in it,” she said. “The only thing I would say is, when I’ve been reading through some of these longer reports that summarise a lot of information, you can kind of tell that it’s a robot as it seems to circle back to the same point several times, which a human wouldn’t do. A human would recognise that and say, ‘I’ve already made that point; I’m not going to make it again.’

“It’s a great starting point,” added Mcloughlin. “It created something that would take somebody four hours to produce in a matter of seconds, and then it only takes an hour to dissect it and put your own element in. If you’re saving 75% of your time, it makes sense. It’s brilliant, but just no sensitive data, please.”

You can watch the webinar, which includes panellists’ predictions on how generative AI tools may be used by accountants in the years to come, right here: Tech Pulse 2023: How are accountants using ChatGPT?

Replies (6)

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
02nd Mar 2023 10:10

Its interesting to see how it actually works.

Its essentially a probability generator with a random element, so it assigns a probability to the most likely next word/sentence, and then picks one of the higher probability ones.

Fine for writing generic copy, not fine for technical analysis.

Thanks (1)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By Moo Cow
02nd Mar 2023 11:33

I thinking back many decades to passing my exams: it was a very similar process if I didn't know the answer. Keep on writing hoping on the law of probability that I'll get the right answer within the drivel written!!

Thanks (1)
By indomitable
02nd Mar 2023 12:02

If anyone has ever tried AI chatbots they will know that there are next to useless. Maybe they can look up information but so can 'google'. You don't get any sensible answers to problems or issues

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By Postingcomments
03rd Mar 2023 12:27

When you write an article for the sake of writing an article.............

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Replying to Postingcomments:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
07th Mar 2023 10:36

Or maybe ChatGPT wrote the article...

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By samstiffen99
27th Mar 2023 12:27

chatgtp-4 is in a way to change this world and eat employees work.

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