In the coming decades, intelligent systems will take over more and more decision-making tasks from humans. While accountants have been using technology for many years to improve what they do and deliver more value to businesses, this is an opportunity to reimagine and radically improve the quality of business and investment decisions – which is the ultimate purpose of the profession. In order to realise this potential, the profession needs to focus on the fundamental business problems it aims to solve, and imagine how new technologies can transform its approach to them.
This is according to a report (Artificial intelligence and the future of accountancy) by the IT Faculty at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
It says although artificial intelligence (AI) techniques such as machine learning are not new, and the pace of change is fast, widespread adoption in business and accounting is still in early stages. In order to build a positive vision of the future, we need to develop a deep understanding of how AI can solve accounting and business problems, the practical challenges and the skills accountants need to work alongside intelligent systems.
According to the report, in the short to medium term AI brings many opportunities for accountants to improve their efficiency, provide more insight and deliver more value to businesses. In the longer term, AI raises opportunities for much more radical change, as systems increasingly take over decision-making tasks currently done by humans.
The report outlines a framework for embracing the opportunities created by increasingly intelligent systems, based on three questions.
What is the long-term vision for AI and accountancy?
(Envisioning how intelligent systems can enable better decisions in business, and understanding how accountants can help this process.)
How do artificial and human intelligence work together?
(Developing an understanding of what is new about the technology, how it can ‘turbo charge’ the capabilities of humans, and its limits.)
How are accountants using AI capabilities?
(Exploring real-world examples of accountants using AI systems, including the specific benefits and limitations, to help develop the longer term vision.)
ICAEW says it will actively explore ways in which it can help the profession to think more radically about a future working with AI, and translate innovative ideas into practice.
Download the full report here.