Accountants, AI, and Tools of Success: Myths, Facts and Essential App Features
Accountants neither have nor will they ever be out of a job completely for the foreseeable future, because as long as there is business to be done and taxes to be paid, the accountant will be necessary to crunch those numbers. In fact, the US News placed accountancy in general at 7th place on their list of the Best Business Jobs, mainly because of the huge projected job openings which will be created this very year. Right on the heels of the general accountant are also jobs that accountants are often found to be in charge of, namely that of the financial advisor (6th place) and the financial manager (5th place). Suffice to say, there is absolutely no doubt about it that accountants are in demand!
Accountants and Software Resources: Understanding the Real Connection
Depending on the type of accountant, the work that they do, the kind of projects they handle and the position they hold in the field, an accountant’s need for software resources will vary. However, what is for certain is that the tools can be interchanged and replaced quite easily nowadays due to the presence of so many competing options, but the men and women working with those tools are not so easy to replace!
Contrary to what a lot of accountants are afraid of, the enmity between AI-powered tools for accounting and human accountants is mostly fictional. Accounting software simply makes the accountant more productive, but none of them can replace a financial expert, at least not for the foreseeable future anyway. The entire concept is centered around letting the software handle the menial jobs and eliminate errors so that the accountant can work on the actual goals of the client. They provide the numbers, but the accountants, financial managers and advisors make sense of them and present it all in a manner that is understandable for the executives and decision-makers.
Why Computers Can’t Steal the Accountant’s Job
We may reach a point of time in the future where robots might be able to replace not just accountants, but pretty much any other professional as well, but that is science fiction at best right now! Given that a number of accountants are still afraid of losing their jobs to AI, let’s concentrate on a few essential points that should be able to point out the irrationality of the fear:
- Humans prefer to deal with humans, especially when it concerns major financial matters, and humans are the customers
- If the machine made an error, on account of an erroneous input/interpretation, communication would not exactly remain an option
- Software can be used to flawlessly crunch the numbers, but its interpretations in respect to tax rules are not feasible demands from the AI
- Accounting tools are being developed, updated and implemented to help accounting professionals by design, not to replace them
- Accounting tools cannot take decisions in complex scenarios
- AI programs can still be hacked and reprogrammed to act maliciously
To sum it all up, one would have to say that even if an AI accounting software was allowed to take all the decisions in accordance with its own limited understanding, the results could be catastrophic. Each and every tool of automation, be it in the virtual or the real world, has been designed to make one or more steps of the job easier, better and faster. But without human supervision, proper functioning from any standpoint is impossible, at least at this time.
The robotic arm in a factory is extremely efficient, but it cannot differentiate between a human hand and a piece of metal effectively enough to prevent tragic accidents. Without the presence of a supervisor and emergency, manual shutdown systems in place, the accident toll would mount beyond acceptability in a matter of days.
Considering that the example above only involves manual labor, which requires only the most minimum of intelligent efforts to be completed safely, it isn’t difficult to imagine how a field as complicated and intermingled as accountancy would be for AI to handle without human supervision. Sure, the casualties may not be directly physical in nature, but the chain of financial disasters, especially if hacked by a criminal organization, could affect millions of people.
Treating Technology as an Intelligent and Advanced Tool
If accountants could, on the other hand, stop fearing the advancement of software development, but instead use them as the tools of the trade which they are, the potentials are tremendous here. In fact, it’s not even optional today for an accountant to not be tech-savvy. As Suffolk University points out, it’s true that accountants are in demand today, but that demand is highly dependent on their expertise and familiarity with the modern tools of accounting.
In this regard, it can be stated that an accountant who isn’t familiar with the use of the right tools will find it particularly hard to remain in demand, especially as we head further into the future. If it has been a while since you qualified, it might be time to brush up on some of what we are going to discuss next, or maybe even get a more advanced degree in accounting that’s in tune with the tech that surrounds the profession these days. Compared to the manual accounting which you have probably handled for decades now, it should not take too much time for most expert accountants to get used to the applications either. There might be an initial learning curve, but it’s not going to be a steep one at all, especially if you take an academic approach towards it.
Tools of the Trade
Let’s now take a look at some of the most useful accounting software resources that the modern accountant could be taking advantage of:
- Oracle NetSuite ERP
- Sage 50cloud
These are some of the most popular accounting software for sure, but this is not a top five list, so the choice is still with you, and they can be different from the ones listed here. In order to help you choose, read on as we discuss the topic further.
How Should an Accountant Choose?
Remember that some of them have more features than the other, while the tool with fewer features may be more cost-effective than those with unnecessary add-ons. What really matters in making that choice are the factors as follows:
- The job role you play as an accountant, and the tool’s efficacy in helping you to do any one or multiple parts of that job faster and better
- An entire accounting software suite or a single tool could be equally efficient to two different accountants with different jobs, although the former will cost a lot more
- Being an accountant, you probably don’t need to be told about the importance of comparing the value you are getting with the price you are paying
Key Features of Modern Accounting Tools and Software Suites: What You Should Expect
Instead of just mentioning the features of each tool in detail, we are going to concentrate on the actual features of the most helpful ones – which an accountant should find to be the most effective for making them more productive than they are currently without them. Once you get through these, you should have a pretty good idea regarding what to expect from the top developers and their creations.
Scalability – it is not just important for SMEs to work with accounting tools and services that offer scalable features and plans, but it’s just as important for professional accounting firms and individual freelancers to work with a scalable software. The more scalable the software is, the more usable it will be to you for dealing with multiple clients of varying stature and needs.
Batch Entry – The software should support at least a year/12 months of transaction entries in a single batch. You will likely need to still use Excel for reformatting the batch properly from the bank transactions, but the batch entry will save you dozens of hours of manual, boring work. The saved hours could then be used to accommodate more clients, practically boosting your income potentials as well.
Re-categorizing/Re-Classifying Options – This is where the human error factor creeps in because wrong categorization/classification of expenses, in particular, is a common error we make. Your tool should give you the option to make minute changes on the fly and as necessary, without having to restart the whole process.
Offline and Cloud Options – Cloud options are perfect because they let you change and continue from any device of your choice, as long as you are logging in via the same account, on a registered device. However, what if you lost the connection? Without an installed version of the software present on your device’s hardware, you won’t be able to continue using the services offline. Just an hour of lost connection could set you back severely, as you could have used that hour to do the actual work and upload it later on when the connection got restored. Always opt for a tool with both online and offline usability.
The idea is to adapt, learn and implement on a continuous basis, not unlike the job of accounting itself. Tech is only helping to make it less boring and time-consuming. So, rest assured that as long as you are a good accountant with the necessary education and training in both traditional and modern accounting, you will be in demand.