With ChatGPT making a splash in the news recently, the growing use of AI technology and its impact on business operations is in the spotlight. In this recent article published in the UK-based The Accountant Online, Ray Meiring, our CEO and co-founder, shares his thoughts on the role of AI in transforming accounting practices:
AI is becoming an increasingly permanent fixture around the globe. With individuals interacting with it daily, from asking Siri to make a call or having ChatGPT write up essays, it is also set to become a defining feature of our age, including in accounting. Santiago Bedoya-Pardo sat down with Ray Meiring, CEO at QorusDocs, a proposal management software firm dedicated to developing new platforms and tools for accountancy, to find out more.
The conversation came about as online financial advisory platform Balancing Everything released a report indicating that 58% of accounting experts believe these tools could be useful, especially in the automation of day-to-day tasks at their practices.
According to Meiring, this shift is by no means a novel development, suggesting that various firms have long sought to implement smart technological tools into the software used in their daily tasks, and that precedents to the current shift to AI-led automation can be found in the not-so-distant past.
Use of this intelligent technology has facilitated work in the industry, according to Meiring, thanks to its capacity to not only identify patterns that may at times evade the human eye, but also its advanced adaptability and understanding of human interactions and language. This means that AI tools are especially suited to understanding what is asked from firms when dealing with requests for proposals (RFPs), playing a key role in the development of pitches within the industry.
Meiring explains that AI tools are uniquely equipped to handle these tasks thanks to their capacity to access databases holding previous work carried out by the firm in question, streamlining the sales process exponentially.
Touching on the new role AI can play in the sales process and generation of content, TA asks Meiring to offer his thoughts on new technologies which are becoming increasingly common, such as generative AI.
Generative AI has entered the mainstream thanks to the advent of several visual and text-based platforms, including Midjourney and, perhaps most notably, ChatGPT.
To Meiring, these bots, which he prefers to call “junior writing assistants”, will prove to be highly advantageous for the business development function within accounting firms. They are capable of generating responses to RFPs in the form of a first draft, which would then only need to be tailored to the client’s needs by a human manager, either in the form of active editing or by feeding back to the AI any missing information or additional pieces of commentary in the form of corrections. While these technologies still face a number of limitations, Meiring expects them to become increasingly smart in the near future.
While the advent of AI technologies is both a certainty and an opportunity for the accounting industry, only 28% of accounting experts are currently leveraging the capability these tools may provide. This compares with the 58% of accounting experts who have expressed optimism about these tools, highlighting an odd discrepancy between how the industry feels towards these new technologies and their willingness to take them on board.
To Meiring, this can be explained by a series of factors. The first is that, in his opinion, AI has for a long time been shrouded in mystery.
“People have both struggled and worked hard to establish what value it will bring and how it will change an organisation,” he notes.
“There has been resistance to change, as accounting firms have been looking at how other industries have reacted when adopting this technology,” he continues, adding that while it may be a long process, the industry has made progress in “demystifying” AI.
This progress is evident when reading ICAEW’s report on the future of AI and the accounting profession, which outlines a positive and hopeful outlook on the role these new technologies will play in the industry.
The ICAEW report reads: “Artificial intelligence systems can be very powerful and are improving quickly. They provide outputs that can be extremely accurate, replacing and, in some cases, far superseding human efforts.
“However, they do not replicate human intelligence. We need to recognise the strengths and limits of this different form of intelligence and build understanding of the best ways for humans and computers to work together.”
DEMYSTIFYING THE TECH
To Meiring, this “demystification” is a logical development. The success of different industries in using AI tools and technologies has led to a replication process that has allowed for the introduction of this new intelligence into the corporate mainstream.
Together with this, however, he believes there is another far more mundane factor that needs to be taken into account: the use of different AI platforms in our daily lives.
From Alexa to Siri, we have grown used to dealing with these tools in recent years, making transformation less dramatic and more organic for professionals across the industry.
While professionals may have ways to acquaint themselves with these technologies, WEF experts have expressed concern over an upcoming skilled labour shortage for roles tasked with AI technology, a key issue TA raises with Meiring given the apparently unstoppable technological transformation the world is currently facing.
He believes that while these are valid concerns, the way in which leading technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Oracle are investing in democratising AI platforms, making them more accessible to the general public, will play a key role in facilitating access to the necessary skillsets to operate these tools.
Meiring adds: “The data-scientist skills needed to understand how AI works will be less relevant than knowing how to deal with these APIs and platforms in real time.
“People won’t need to understand the absolute mechanics of AI. Instead, they’ll need the appropriate skillsets to interact with it, how to prompt it, how to integrate into other applications. Hopefully, through the democratisation that larger organisations are facilitating, the skillsets needed to operate these technologies will become more and more common.”
Meiring further notes that administrative roles would be transformed by the introduction of AI technology into the workplace, adopting a new direction aimed at the application, training and use of these new tools and technologies.
COACHING AND TRAINING
While Meiring speaks of the adoption of AI tools and technologies as a given, TA highlights research by TPF Recruitment, which specialises in accounting personnel. According to TPF, accountancy seems to be opting for diversification rather than automation, with firms preferring to outsource certain duties to developing countries, most notably in South Asia.
Meiring, however, believes accounting has a wide array of incentives to opt for AI automation over outsourcing, especially in coaching and training.
According to Meiring: “AI tools have the capacity to teach themselves and grow better over time, picking up experience and knowledge faster than humans would.”
This contrasts with the resources that firms would be forced to invest in training materials, instruction and coaching for human labour, both at home and abroad.
Meiring also notes that firms stand to benefit from the analytics offered by the adoption of AI tools. Data generated by these technologies will offer firms and employers key breakdowns of their performance and the state of their business, something that would be impossible to attain through outsourced human labour.
Meiring adds: “Through the automation of business processes, firms will be able to pick up key metrics of where things are slow, where things are fast, and where there are areas for improvement.
“These analytics are available and can be displayed at a very granular level, so industry heads can look at key details of their processes and strategy that could be otherwise overlooked by the human eye.”
While the industry may be slow to move, Meiring is convinced that it is heading in the right direction – one that now seems impossible to change. AI tools and technologies are here to stay, and will play an increasingly active role in the accountancy practice in the years to come.
Whether through optimising day-today practices or the development of RFP responses for clients and the development of sales pitches, these are tools that will make accountancy increasingly effective and accessible for the general public in an increasingly technological world.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how AI-powered technology can help your accounting firm streamline operations to minimize time-consuming admin practices, increase productivity, and drive profits, this recent article in Bloomberg Tax is a good place to start.
And don’t forget to check out the QorusDocs Professional Services Resources Hub. This curated collection of resources is tailored to the unique needs of professional services organizations and includes a proposal management guide, pursuit process checklist, a wide range of downloadable templates, presentation guide, and more.