Automation, artificial intelligence and their impact on accounting have been a hot topic for a long time. Bleakest estimates suggest that jobs in accounting will disappear when machines replace humans. Jobs will not disappear, but they will change – for the better, assure Azets Insight’s experts Janne Blomqvist and Juha Huotari.
“Purchase invoices have been digitalised for the last 20 years, and hardly anyone wants to go back to tapping away at them manually. The same thing will happen in other areas of accounting. The changes will happen gradually, and the people in accounting will find them pleasant as their jobs become more rewarding”, Janne Blomqvist says.
“Machines will take over the boring routine work. We can leave the robotic work to robots, so to speak. As a result, people can concentrate on more intelligent tasks that are more natural to humans”, Juha Huotari continues.
Automation does not mean doing the same thing in a new way – it means doing things in a smarter way overall. Instead of listing routine tasks that can be automatised, organisations will consider how automation and humans can work together. This is a big operative and cultural change.
Artificial intelligence supports accounting work
While machine learning is efficient, machines cannot innovate. When a new kind of invoice that artificial intelligence has not previously seen is submitted to accounts payable, it needs help from humans.
“As a whole, accounting is made up of a myriad of various statutes, laws, practices and policies. Teaching them all to the artificial intelligence system will not be practical or profitable at least in the near future. Therefore, we still need humans”, Blomqvist says.
Many accounting processes have already been automated with excellent results. Automation is already an everyday reality for all accounting professionals, whether as a handy Excel sheet, an interface between the payment system and the accounting system, rule-based circulation of purchase invoices, automatic reconciliation or a purchase invoice system using machine learning techniques.
“Despite its name, artificial intelligence is not intelligent enough to work alone. Humans have to write the artificial intelligence software, test it, maintain it, monitor it and analyse the results achieved with its help. These tasks can only be carried out by accounting professionals”, Huotari emphasises.
In certain areas of accounting, the cost-efficiency of artificial intelligence is higher than in others. Controlling functions seem to have the most potential in the future.
“Out of all the accounting processes, controlling has the largest impact on the profitability of a business.”
Even in controlling functions, an artificial intelligence making forecasts and analysing it is not enough. Humans are needed to make relevant conclusions based on the forecast and analyses and to make recommendations and decisions. Accounting professionals will remain the management’s right hand while accounting professionals will have artificial intelligence as their right hand”, Blomqvist sums up.