The use of increased technology in various parts of the economy has been a hot potato issue since the days of the Luddites. Not that the ideas have all been negative; far from destroying everyone’s jobs, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes envisaged a world in which we would all just work shorter hours and enjoy lots more leisure time - a view that turned out a touch optimistic.
While there are some obvious trade-offs - after all, computers need computer scientists and programmers - there remains suspicion in some quarters about what increased use of high tech may mean. That may not quite have reached the apocalyptic proportions of Skynet in the Terminator films, but the rise of the machines will leave some wondering about the future of employment.
As this is January, the future - or at least what 2023 holds - has occupied many minds and the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and data in accounting has been a big taking point. But, while such technology may be adopted more, it does not mean accountancy recruitment agencies will become a thing of the past; flesh and blood accountants will still be important.
Firstly, as FinExtra notes, AI is already here and in use in accountancy, especially, but not exclusively, by the larger firms. Much of this is involved in data recording on simple transactions as well as analysing large volumes of data to establish broad patterns.
However, this supplements the human accountant’s role, rather than replacing it. Not only does the data still need an expert human to interpret it, but patterns picked up will simply highlight areas worthy of investigation by an auditor and reveal data that can inform human decision-making.
By doing all this, loads of time and tedious data-gathering are saved, meaning resources can be dedicated chiefly to more meaningful and fulfilling tasks as well as providing the human touch in dealing with clients.
Indeed, the article suggests that it is in the area of customer service and “finding nuance in the data and understanding it in the context of someone’s personal and business goals” that accountants will find their main role in the years ahead as automation advances.
Moreover, as Accountancy Age recently highlighted, the increased use of data in tax accountancy will both create new opportunities and develop new responsibilities for the profession.
CEO of tax software firm Tax Systems, Bruce Martin, told the publication that keeping up with technology is necessary to comply with some of the latest legislation, such as the shift towards tax digitisation by HMRC. “It opens up new opportunities for firms to embrace technology that will allow them to reap the kinds of benefits they have seen in other areas in their tax functions,” he observed.
Moreover, Mr Martin said, the use of data married to enhanced technology will enable firms to provide a one-stop-shop service where clients can access all their information together, providing a better service.
So, far from the rise of the machines eliminating the job of accountants, it will simply take it in new directions, providing opportunities to give clients a better service that will meet their needs in the 21st century.