AI Won't Replace Accountants, But You Should Use It To Do These 4 Things

Gijs Ooijen
July 28, 2023
min read
February 22, 2024
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Is AI a threat or an ally to accountants? Let's find out. Find the balance between AI's potential and human expertise and how Scribe AI can transform process documentation.
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Let's end the debate right now: AI isn't coming for your job. At least not anytime soon. (And if it makes you feel any better, you can learn all about how ChatGPT bombed the CPA exam).

So where does this narrative even come from, and why should we think about AI at all?

Because despite the myths (and the memes) of AI, it has massive potential to make your work life easier — if you wield its power the right way!

Jump to...

Ch‎allenging the AI replacement narrative

Let's set the scene first: We've got two sides of the ring in the AI replacement debate. On one end, we have those who say that AI could replace accountants entirely. On the other, we have those who say AI could never have the unique skills and expertise of a real CPA.

I've told you where we sit, but let's shed light on the role AI can play in the accounting profession.

🎓 Related Resource: Why AI Won't Replace Accountants

AI can't replace accountants

This isn't the first time a tool has seemingly come for accountants. Remember when Excel came on the scene?

A common argument against AI is simple: only humans can truly analyze complex accounting tasks. You're often dealing with messy data, missing parts and a whole lot of judgment calls. No language model was designed to get that stuff.

Tasks like invoice processing, project accounting and distinguishing between repairs/maintenance and fixed assets are tough for AI to handle.

AI might be great at pulling and processing information, but you need a human's judgment to fix the mess that's all too often in the data.

Ho‎w AI can help accountants do their jobs better

We've established that AI won't take your job. So: what's in it for you?

Reddit user showmeEBITDA highlights some of the major benefits that AI will have on accountants' lives, starting now until forever.

Tools like ChatGPT can quickly aggregate information and distill it into concise responses, saving valuable time and effort. And that’s just a general AI tool, let alone a tool made specifically for accountants.

Even the CEO of OpenAI pointed out that AI is better at supporting workers than doing the entire job itself.

So no, AI won't replace accountants, but it can be a great tool for you.

Us‎e AI to do these 4 things

AI in accounting can be a game-changer for your job. Here are four ways you can use it today.

1. Automate mundane & repetitive tasks

Stop wasting time on those redundant, wasteful tasks. Tasks like data entry, invoice processing, and reconciliations are perfect candidates for AI-driven automation

For example, AI-based optical character recognition technology can accurately extract information from invoices and receipts — so you can easily process large volumes a data quickly and accurately!

2. Handle massive amounts of data — fast

Let AI-driven systems handle those massive datasets. It's especially helpful when you're dealing with complex financial transactions and need to organize and analyze a lot quickly.

Take bank reconciliation as an example. AI algorithms can swiftly match and reconcile thousands of transactions and flag potential discrepancies. This saves you time and cuts down on the likelihood of mistakes.

3. Detect & recognize patterns

AI can help you identify irregularities and potential fraud in financial data. By analyzing historical financial data, AI algorithms can detect unusual patterns that we might miss.

For instance, AI can analyze a company's transaction history and pinpoint unusual spending or unauthorized activities, like duplicate payments or unexpected expenses. By detecting these anomalies early on, accountants can take action and maintain their financial integrity and security!

4. Predict & forecast trends

Predictive analytics is another area where AI shines. By analyzing historical financial data and external market trends, AI-driven systems can generate accurate predictions and forecasts for businesses. This data-driven approach empowers accountants to provide valuable insights and strategic recommendations to their clients.

For instance, AI can analyze sales data, expenses and market trends to predict future revenue growth and identify cost-saving opportunities. Accountants can then collaborate with their clients to devise effective financial strategies, ensuring businesses stay ahead in a competitive market.

AI-powered systems can save you hours on data entry — so you can focus your attention on higher-value activities.

Let’s take a deep dive into some specific examples of how AI can benefit accountants.

Ot‎her benefits of AI in accounting

Improved efficiency and accuracy

From data reconciliation to financial statements and compliance reporting, AI helps you move faster with better outcomes. Imagine a world where you worked like that all the time?

One remarkable example of how AI can make a real difference is through process documentation. Process documentation is an essential but often tedious aspect of an accountant's job. Creating SOPs, training manuals, and process overviews can be time-consuming and prone to human error. 

Enter Scribe, the ultimate solution for process documentation. Using Scribe's browser extension, accountants can automate the process documentation effortlessly. As they perform various business processes, Scribe AI observes and records the steps taken in real time. 

The result? Within a few seconds, Scribe transforms these actions into comprehensive, step-by-step guides. They are so simple; you won’t even believe it.

Here’s an example:

Stop spending countless hours writing down each step of a process. Let Scribe do it for you!

Ankit V. loves it:

"I've never loved a documentation tool this much," he said. “Honestly, the ability to hit the record button and go through the process while the platform automatically builds a step-by-step guide for you–who could have thought of that? I love the platform and the team behind it.”

When we document everything ourselves, we're bound to run into issues. With AI, we stay consistent every time, eliminating the risk of missing crucial steps.

Scribes follow your exact steps, with no chance of errors!

And those are not all ways in which AI can result in improved efficiency and accuracy. Other examples are:

  • Data reconciliation — AI can rapidly match and reconcile large volumes of financial transactions, minimizing errors and discrepancies. 
  • Financial statement preparation - AI systems can extract relevant data from various sources and generate accurate financial statements quickly. This allows accountants to produce financial reports in a fraction of the time it would take manually, enabling faster decision-making for businesses.
  • Compliance reporting - AI can automate the process of gathering and analyzing data to ensure compliance with regulations and standards. This not only saves time but also enhances the accuracy and reliability of compliance reporting.

Other than resulting in improved efficiency and accuracy, AI can also enable more and better strategic insights. Let’s take a look at that!

Enabling strategic insights

AI's strength lies in its capacity to process and analyze large data sets quickly and efficiently. With advanced algorithms, it can detect patterns, correlations, and anomalies that might escape human analysis. This analytical capability offers accountants data-driven insights that are crucial for making strategic decisions.

Let's look at a hypothetical example of a multinational company that operates in various regions with a complex revenue and expense structure. Without AI's assistance, analyzing the profitability of each region manually would be a difficult and time-consuming task that could result in overlooking crucial factors.

However, with AI tools, accountants can rapidly process and analyze financial data from each region, identifying profitability trends and underlying drivers. AI algorithms can spot patterns in revenue growth, cost efficiencies, and market dynamics, providing a comprehensive view of the company's performance.

Once AI generates insights, it is the accountant's role to interpret the results and provide strategic advice. Armed with AI's data-driven analysis, accountants can focus on understanding the context behind the numbers, identifying opportunities for growth, and addressing potential risks.

In our example, the accountant can interpret the profitability trends to determine which regions are thriving and which might require optimization. By understanding the factors driving revenue growth in certain regions, accountants can recommend replicating successful strategies in other markets.

With AI-generated insights, accountants can confidently recommend investments in profitable regions and strategic adjustments to improve the performance of less profitable ones. Data-driven decision-making enhances the company's competitive edge and positions it for sustained success.

Wh‎y we'll always need human expertise

Throughout all the ways AI empowers accountants we’ve been talking about, there remains a consistent and essential thread: the irreplaceable value of human expertise and ethical judgment. While AI can streamline processes, analyze vast datasets, and provide valuable insights, it has its limitations when it comes to critical thinking and professional judgment.

As AI rapidly evolves, it can handle an increasing number of accounting tasks with impressive accuracy and efficiency. However, there are certain challenges where human expertise remains very important. Here are just a few examples.

Interpreting regulatory requirements

Accounting professionals navigate a complex web of ever-changing regulations and compliance standards. The nuances of legal requirements and the intricacies of different jurisdictions require human accountants' in-depth understanding and expertise to ensure adherence and mitigate risks.

Assessing qualitative factors

While AI excels in processing quantitative data, qualitative factors play a vital role in accounting decisions. Ethical considerations, reputational risks, and stakeholder relationships demand human judgment and a broader understanding of the business context.

Considering broader context

Accounting decisions are not isolated events–they impact the entire business ecosystem. Human accountants have the ability to comprehend the interconnections between financial decisions and broader business objectives, enabling them to provide strategic advice that aligns with the company's goals.

Wr‎apping it up

It’s clear: AI doesn't have to replace anyone. It’s a powerful tool that can automate tasks, analyze data, and offer valuable insights. However, human accountants still play a crucial role in critical thinking, judgment, and ethics, which AI can't do. The key is to work with AI, not against it.

As you explore how AI can make a difference for you, Scribe AI is a great tool to start with. It frees up your time for more important tasks. We created a free accounting manual generator to get you started! Try it out for yourself here.

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