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Will 2018 Be the Year Robots Take Over the Finance Department? No. Here’s Why.

Will 2018 Be the Year Robots Take Over the Finance Department? No. Here’s Why.

The robots are coming, the robots are coming! With the rapidly accelerating embrace of technology, everyone from front-line food service workers to manufacturing laborers to journalists to accountants is wondering how they will fare when the robots come. Will 2018 be the year that C-3PO gets hired in your accounting department? Should you start updating your resume? It all depends who you ask, but the likely answer is no, or not yet at least.

They (the Robots) Took Our Jobs!

AI has become a hot topic, as discussed in our overview of Gartner’s gamechanging technologies for 2018, with AI Foundations, Intelligent Apps and Analytics, and Intelligent Things comprising three key business drivers in 2018. However, just because something exists, doesn’t mean that it will immediately change the way you do work, and doesn’t mean that you will be out of work tomorrow.

In fact, these tools could make your life easier and address current and future talent gaps that exist—doing all of the menial work while you get to focus on your job. With a recent study finding that half of a finance pro’s week is spend on transaction processing, this could actually be a welcome change.

The Personal Touch: What Separates Accountants from the Bots

A recent CPA Trendlines interview with Todd Shapiro attempted to quell the fears, dispel the myths, and discuss whether or not all accountant would be replaced by robots.

You’ll Never Replace the Human Element in Accounting

Considered to be “one of the most controversial questions in technology,” Mr. Shapiro believes that while there is a good chance that some accountants will be replaced by robots—driven by costs, profits, and opportunities—robots will never fully replace a human.

“AI can only do so much […], the analysis can be done by a bot, just the same as a person. It’s the interpretation and communication in a way that brings insight, and I think that we’re a long way from the computer actually providing the insight, interpretation, and explanation. You’re always going to have individuals who are not financially astute, so you’re always going to have CPAs, accountants, who will have to interpret the information and present it in a clear and concise format. What they (the humans) won’t be doing is the processes.”

We’re still years, if not decades away from having a robot as a CFO or CPA, because despite what business leaders think, “those people in finance” are not number-crunching robots. They’re humans who make decisions, answer questions, and make sure the business is in the right place.

There to Make Your Job Easier

This point was reiterated in parts 2 and 3 of the Sage Intacct Series discussing why robots won’t take your jobs: Context and Direction.

“Despite being super-fast with the numbers, it will still need someone to analyze and steer the focus. At this point, AI cannot interpret the context in results.”

“Despite the brilliance, we still need someone that understands the point, direction, and changes that occur in our business on a day to day basis.”

Eight Places Robots Could Fit

In part three of the Sage Intacct Series, author Victor Baglio discussed eight places where a robot will fit into your business. According to Baglio, AI will be tasked with removing the following physical demands:

  1. Duplicitous entry
  2. Communication receipt and delivery
  3. Monitoring
  4. Auditing
  5. Closing the books
  6. Monitoring AP / AR transactions for anomalies and errors
  7. Reporting
  8. Planning

For finance, all of these processes are time consuming, error prone, and an opportunity for savings. You’ve probably heard the buzz around the many benefits of automating your financial processes—improved accuracy, significant time savings, and reduced operational costs, to name a few.

Technology Could Help Finance Connect with Business

Automation and intelligence will, however, help finance pros better connect with the rest of the business. Notably, this is the reason our friends at Host Analytics introduced Host Dashboards in their most recent product update, designed to help finance professionals communicate the planning, budgeting, and analysis data more easily than ever. Read more about Host Dashboards here.

Robots Are Here to Help (And So Are We)

When the Luddites destroyed factories and looms, they had a somewhat realistic fear of being replaced. However, as many found out, there was still a need for human elements. Today, just as there is a need for machine operators at textile facilities, and a demand for handmade goods, the same goes for robots in the finance department—you will still need someone to inform the robots, and there is still a major organizational need for someone who can explain what the numbers mean.

AI in the finance department is here, and even if it’s not out to take your job, it will simplify your day and help you connect with the rest of the business. If you’re looking to make your job easier through connection, automation, and simplification, we’d love to help. As a leader in the financial technology world, Wipfli/Brittenford has helped companies to find what they need, implement it, and operate it. Learn more about our work here, and contact us to learn more.

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