Accountants don’t always have the reputation of being change makers and early adopters of technological innovation – when in fact the opposite is true. From the introduction of double entry accounting in the 15th century to the birth of computing to today’s rise of artificial intelligence (AI), believe it or not, accountants have always been at the forefront of embracing innovation and technological change.
Today, the pace of tech innovation driven by machine learning and AI is ramping up rapidly and having a dramatic impact on financial management. And business owners – especially small business owners – don’t have the time or expertise to figure out how to leverage such innovations on their own. Enter the accountants – those who are being called upon to adapt, experiment and embrace not only new technologies, but new ways of running their practices and serving the businesses that hire them as routine accounting tasks like data entry become automated.
“So often the message is that the world is changing and we had better catch up,” says Ariege Misherghi, Leader of the Accountant Business at Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks. “The accounting profession has not just weathered change but has led through change for decades. In fact, we know accounting professionals and bookkeepers are ready to harness the power of cutting-edge technology to take the profession to the next level and ensure they’re delivering the best possible service to their clients.”
From Simple Spreadsheets to AI: The Technology Evolution
When accounting moved from pen and paper and simple spreadsheets to DOS and then from Windows and Excel, accountants understood the power of systematic calculations and reporting, and quickly adapted. In the move from Windows to the cloud, accountants recognized the value in having near real-time books so clients could make better decisions. The power of the cloud also broadened the impact accountants could have within the small business community with a larger geographical reach that stretched outside of their city, state and country boundaries.
Now, in the era of AI, accountants are trendsetters yet again. They’re experimenting and adopting new tools that will transform the financial management industry and the success of small businesses globally. With AI, data entry tasks are automated, providing accountants with the opportunity to offer more robust value-added services and business advice that ensure their clients’ long-term growth and prosperity. For this reason, job growth for accounting professionals over the next decade will be strong, according to the United States Department of Labor, as higher-value advisory and analytical skills become more prominent. Similarly, accounting ranks No.3 on the U.S. News list of Best Business Jobs, just after statisticians and mathematicians, citing above average flexibility and opportunities for advancement.
“You can automate work, but you can’t automate expertise,” Misherghi says. “In taking the pulse of the diverse community of accounting professionals that Intuit connects with around the world, we know that while small business owners may feel like the odds are stacked against them, accounting professionals do not. They are optimistic about their future and the future of the industry.”
‘Nothing’s off limits’
According to Intuit research, small businesses connected to an accountant say they are twice as likely to succeed. Yet today, 40 percent of small businesses using QuickBooks are not connected to an accounting professional. That’s a big opportunity. And it’s one that accountants are seizing.
For Jeff Wilson, owner of accounting firm The WII Group in Clinton, MD., a strategic shift to the cloud over the past five years has had a multiplier effect on his business: liberating his staff to work from anywhere, growing his client base some 300% as he’s expanded to new regions, and driving revenue exponentially with an emphasis on innovative consulting and advisory work.
Now, the practice is 100% cloud-based. The team uses cloud-based tools for sharing files, virtual meetings and other needs in a decentralized operation. With QuickBooks Online and its ecosystem, “the accounting’s done,” Wilson says. “Now, it’s ‘what else do you do to move this forward?’ Nothing’s off limits. It’s all just about performance and execution.”
At least once a year, accountant Nayo Carter-Gray outlines the workflow on one of the services she offers from beginning to end. Last year, she examined her tax workflow. Remarkably, she found she could automate up to nine steps.
“I try to figure out, ‘where can I save some time, money and what can I automate,’” says Carter-Gray, owner and founder at 1st Step Accounting in Towson, MD.
The impact AI will continue to have on the accounting profession is profound. And like accountants who embrace new technologies to improve their workflow, QuickBooks is also taking advantage of the power AI brings by dramatically reducing the time it takes a professional to achieve and maintain accurate, up-to-date, clean books for their clients so they can spend more time on high-value business advice.
One example of how the integration of AI into QuickBooks can significantly help accountants save time and provide profound business advice is through Business Performance Review, a new capability within QuickBooks Online Accountant that provides key metrics, trends and industry comparisons in an elegant dashboard experience. The powerful technology inside QuickBooks automatically calculates ratios and displays key trends from a client’s data, providing insights that help improve their business performance.
With the power of AI inside QuickBooks, professionals can serve twice as many clients as those who don’t, opening up new growth opportunities by serving more clients and offering more strategic, impactful business advice. In other words, accountants are not just number crunchers, but case studies for adopting technological innovation in a way that other industries can learn from today and in the future. Believe it.