Can artificial intelligence enhance your accounting practice? It absolutely can. Jody Padar is the VP of Strategy with Botkeeper, a company that combines artificial intelligence and machine learning technology with high-quality skilled accountants to deliver a full suite of bookkeeping and pre-accounting solutions to accounting firms and their clients. She’s also the author of“The Radical CPA: New Rules for the Future-Ready Firm,”a book that sparked a movement within the accounting profession focused on four tenets: cloud technology, social business, value pricing, and process.
Botkeeper was originally focused on offering accounting services to businesses directly, but they found that accountants needed the service even more than small businesses—and now their bots are helping accounting firms do bookkeeping. Bookkeepers are having a hard time hiring people or keeping up with their retiring employees, and there’s not enough manpower to do the work. Bots come in and really make that repetitive work easy to get done and finish so that the accountant or the CPA can come in to do advisory work, tax planning, and other higher-level tasks.
When bringing in bots, there’s always the concern of people losing jobs—but Jody insists that’s not the case with these bots. CPA firms are already having problems finding talent, so the only jobs they are filling are ones that nobody is applying for. Additionally, the people who are doing the work already are now freed up to do more thought work. If what an accountant does now is roughly 80% repetitive transactions, these bots can reduce that to 20%.
Once you see what they can do, you start to wonder: What else can be automated? There are bots coming in all over the place in CPA firms. Botkeeper is one piece of it, but if you look around, there are many other technologies that are coming into the accounting space that are doing similar things.
Technology is going to change what a CPA or an accountant does—it is going to have an impact on what they do in the future. Accountants can either wait for that change to come, or they can be proactively engaged with the technology to help it serve the industry better. That’s the great thing about technology firms hiring CPAs to get their perspective as the technology grows.
Learning new technology has always been a hurdle, but with artificial intelligence and bots, it’s different. It’s more of a communication tool—you don’t have to learn how to train a bot. Artificial intelligence engineers do that part. Nobody has to learn how to use Uber: you just push a button and the car comes to you. That’s what the bots will do for your firm. You don’t have to understand how the bots work. You just have to understand how to use the tool to support your work.
Change can be hard to get used to, but bots are coming, and if you know how to prepare for them, the change will be a net positive for everyone. Getting rid of the repetitive, low-level tasks that take up the majority of our time but are rarely the most important thing frees us up to focus on what really matters, and that’s a change worth being excited about.