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Preparing Your Firm for AI Integration
accountants and bookkeepers

Preparing Your Firm for AI Integration

AI can do much more than just automate repetitive and low-value activities. Used correctly, it boosts efficiency across a range of tasks, enhances data-driven decision-making, and reduces the risk of errors and fraud.

With AI, you can turn raw data into meaningful insights. AI-powered data analytics will help you identify trends, patterns, and anomalies, giving you a deeper understanding of your clients' financial health. 

Integrating AI into your business might seem like a monumental task. But it’s likely you’re already using quite a few AI tools in the accounting software powering your business. 

Rest assured though, you don’t have to revamp your entire operations overnight. Instead, it's about gradually incorporating the AI-based tools that help you solve specific issues, be it automating certain tasks, enhancing accuracy, or assisting with client communications. Ultimately they should give you more time to focus on what really matters: your business and your clients.

In this article, we look at the steps in integrating AI tools into your accounting and bookkeeping workflows, as well as a case study from a firm who is already working with a range of AI-powered tools. For further case studies and practical tips on harnessing the power of AI for your firm, download our latest eBook.

Evaluating the Need for AI in Your Firm

Every shiny new tool comes with a promise to revolutionise your work. But the question is not whether AI is impressive – we know it is. The question is whether it's the right fit for your firm. Just like you wouldn't buy a sports car to handle off-road driving, you need to assess whether AI tools align with your firm's needs, goals, and clients.

Start by identifying the areas where you spend most of your time. Is it data entry? Reconciliation? Or maybe it's client communication? Pinpointing these areas will help you understand where AI can provide the most significant benefits.

Understanding the Investment and Resources Required

Integrating AI into your firm is an investment. But it's not just about money. It's also about the time, effort, and resources you'll need to implement and manage these tools. This might include training staff, updating systems, or even reshaping your business processes.

Of course, you should also consider the return on investment. AI will likely lead to cost savings in the long run by automating tasks, reducing errors, and freeing up staff time. Like any good investment, the benefits should outweigh the costs.

Training and Skill Development for Advisors

AI is a tool, and like any tool, its effectiveness depends on the skill of the person using it. Accountants and bookkeepers will need training to understand how to use AI tools effectively, just as they needed to learn how to use spreadsheets in the past.

Beyond technical skills alone, accountants will also need to develop their soft skills. As AI takes over routine tasks, Advisors can focus more on strategic advice, client relationships, and other areas where human touch is irreplaceable.

Embracing AI will also help you stay competitive in the talent market. Top staff want to use the latest, most innovative tools. By integrating AI into your firm, you’ll not only streamline operations but will also attract and retain the industry's best professionals.

You can’t prepare to integrate AI overnight – it’s going to be a journey. However, if you get it right, you’ll be able to unlock greater efficiency, accuracy, and value for your firm and your clients.

Creating Acceptable AI Usage Policies

Despite AI's profound capabilities, implementing this innovative technology comes with certain challenges and potential risks. That’s why you should first establish a set of AI use policies to ensure your firm operates within ethical boundaries, addresses cybersecurity concerns, and meets high-quality standards.

But what if you deem the risks too severe? Well, in that case, do what you believe is best for your firm. Your firm’s reputation, the quality of your services, and your clients’ confidentiality are more important than jumping aboard the AI bandwagon just because every other firm is. 

Take PwC Australia as an example. A spokesperson for the firm explained “our policies don’t allow our people to use ChatGPT for client usage pending quality standards that we apply to all technology innovation to ensure safeguards. We’re exploring more scalable options for accessing this service and working through the cybersecurity and legal considerations before we use it for business purposes.”

Steps to Follow When Creating Your Firm’s AI Usage Policy:

  1. Identify your firm’s needs and goals: Assess if AI aligns with your firm's unique needs and objectives. Precisely map out which tasks you’ll use it for and pinpoint the benefits you want to achieve with each AI tool you adopt. 
  2. Understand the resources required: Calculate the resources necessary for AI integration, and balance this against the potential long-term returns on investment.
  3. Implement appropriate safeguards: Prioritise setting up preventive measures to mitigate the risks associated with cybersecurity and legal implications. Consult with legal experts to ensure your use of AI tools doesn’t put clients’ information and confidentiality at risk. 
  4. Evaluate quality standards: Check if the AI system can handle complex financial data accurately, and whether it consistently produces reliable results over time. A tool that fails to meet these standards might result in errors, flawed insights, or misinformed strategic decisions.
  5. Foster ongoing innovation: Keep pace with the latest AI innovations and continuously test out new tools. Proactively look for any tools that will help you increase efficiency and accuracy. 
Run a more productive practice - discover more tips and tools on our Efficiency Hub.

Case study: AI in Practice at Infinance Solutions

“When I established Infinance Solutions, my primary objective was to create a sustainable practice capable of operating independently from me as the business owner. My aim was to focus on building a business rather than being consumed by its daily operations,” said Tish Bhagwandeen, Founder and Director of Infinance Solutions. 

Guided by the principle of working her strengths and hiring her weaknesses, Tish’s initial focus was on carefully assembling a proficient team to support both herself and her clients. 

“As I successfully built the right team, it became increasingly evident that to build a contemporary practice dedicated to providing excellent client services it was imperative to formulate and execute a robust digital strategy.” 

The early versions of Tish’s digital strategy focused on tools that could provide a practice management solution that would provide her with increased workflow automation, automated client communication and valuable business insights. As such, she implemented Karbon as an integral element of my practice management. 

“As my strategy matured it became apparent that if I wanted to continue building my contemporary practice then AI technology was going to have to form an integral part of my strategy.”

Image Alt Text

Tish Bhagwandeen, CA, Founder and Director of Infinance Solutions and QuickBooks ProAdvisor

“We have recently seen the release of Karbon AI, whilst this functionality is still in the beta testing phase, it is already streamlining how tasks can be executed, how I communicate with clients, and providing increased business insights. This is being achieved through leveraging functionality such as email summaries and automation. 

“We have all been in a situation where one email quickly spirals into a thread of 10, and by the time we get to the last email we have lost the essence of the conversation. Using Karbon AI creates an easily digestible summary of the salient points.” 

Karbon AI also provided Tish with the ability to draft an email from a client’s task by simply writing an instruction. At first glance one may be inclined to confuse this with writing templates, however what Karbon AI is offering is the ability to draft an email from a task using a few simple prompts, with the added benefit of analysing and adjusting to your tone. 

“Now that I have broadened my digital strategy to incorporate AI I have identified other opportunities to improve my service delivery and overall client experience. One of the most important services I offer my clients is advisory. This can either be formal documented meetings but very often can also be informal discussions. 

“One of the more significant weaknesses we have in our practices is not being disciplined enough to follow up client discussions with a summary report, simply because we don’t have enough time. This has prompted me to beta test an application called QMinutes, a tool using AI to address this problem. Not only does it summarise meetings into minutes it also analyses the information to provide additional meeting insights such as analysing speaker tone and contribution as well as drafting a list of action items,” Tish said. 

There is no denying that technology is helping the accounting profession evolve. 

“We have long debated whether technology can replace accountants, but we are far from seeing AI technology making accountants redundant. What we are striving to achieve is to utilise AI to handle time-consuming, repetitive tasks, so we can focus on more important tasks such as client-facing duties or tasks that require the application of our soft skills.” 

Looking Ahead: The Future of AI in Accounting & Bookkeeping

Change can be scary, but it's also an opportunity for growth. AI in accounting and bookkeeping may have seemed futuristic even a few short years ago, but advancements are happening rapidly.

As AI continues to evolve, advisors must adapt and embrace these new technologies, working with vendors who integrate AI into their offerings.

Of course, tool upgrades are just one part of the equation. To thrive in an AI-enhanced landscape, you must also prioritise continuous learning and upskilling. Stay updated on the latest AI trends and developments. Carve out time to acquire new skills, experiment, and work out ways to be innovative. 

Remember, AI is a tool, not a replacement. By leveraging AI, you can become more efficient, provide better service to your clients, and take your career to new heights. Embrace AI – it’s here to stay.

How Intuit Is Powering an AI-Driven Future

Here at Intuit, we’re pioneering the next frontier in AI technology by integrating generative AI (GenAI) into our offerings. 

Our proprietary Generative AI Operating System (GenOS) harnesses the power of custom-trained financial Large Language Models (LLMs) to solve complex financial challenges in areas such as tax, accounting, marketing, and personal finance.

GenOS comprises four core components: 

  1. GenStudio, a dedicated environment for our developers to create and refine GenAI experiences.
  2. GenRuntime, an intelligent layer ensuring accurate responses to user queries.
  3. GenUX, a library of user-interface components for seamless interaction with our LLMs.
  4. The Financial Large Language Models, which provide actionable insights to address financial challenges.

We believe this continued investment in GenAI will revolutionise our users’ experience. Intuit customers will be able to ask complex financial questions and receive nuanced, data-informed responses. Whether they want to understand how to double cash flow within a specified timeframe or assess their business’s optimal inventory levels, our GenAI will be there to help.

We’ll be bringing you the latest information on how AI can help drive efficiencies, grow your business, or make the EOFY returns period less stressful.

Read more about how AI can drive efficiencies, improve productivity, enhance decision-making through data analytics, and reduce the risk of errors and fraud, and download our eBook, ‘Driving Efficiencies with AI: A Starter Guide’.

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