During its annual developers conference, which kicked off May 8, Google showcased a system named “Duplex AI,” a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out real-world tasks over the phone. Google will start testing the technology with the Google Assistant on smartphones to help users set up appointments without the user needing to make actual phone calls themselves – i.e., the AI system will make the call on user’s behalf.

When any technology graduates from sheer computing to understanding context (of a given business/profession, for example), it creates new possibilities. When that happens, invariably, it can liberate human beings from (some of the) drudgery – and time and effort – of making sense from colossal volumes of data. In other words, AI can, and will, shift human intelligence to higher ground – rather than wasting it on tasks that were hitherto required to be done by humans.

In this context, accountants will become “AI-ccountants.”

Let me clarify: AI will not replace accountants. Instead, it will augment accountants’ intelligence.

Think of the magnitude of the new value this combination can deliver to clients.

Google’s Duplex showed a glimpse of how AI tech can interact with human beings, in natural sounding ways. In the accounting profession, the application of AI can take shape and form in more ways than just that. For example:

  1. Clients and prospects can “book” consulting appointments with you – where your office AI will respond in a human voice to find, book, add to calendar, send confirmation emails and make reminder calls.
  2. Clients can interact over the phone with accounting data/software – which will reply in a human voice (and be as accurate as the accuracy of data in the software).
  3. AI can interact with an accountants’ clients – for example, to “speak” with clients to remind them to send their documents/info to prepare tax returns in time; to ask for clarifications on certain expenses; and even to make calls to remind them about overdue payments.
  4. As AI learns the “context” of accounting – and that of clients’ businesses – it will more and more be able to derive its own “business advice” based on that context – which accountants can then enrich with human intelligence to create exceptional value for clients. A point to note here is the ability of AI to not overlook numerous details, which can be a challenge for human beings because of lack of adequate time, reduced focus due to multi-tasking, etc.
  5. Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Developers Conference in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Each year, Google uses the start of its annual conference to set a narrative about how developers and the public should view the company. This time, the message was clear: Google is about technology for good. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
    Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated the company's AI making a phone call on its own at the 2018 Google I/O Developers Conference on May 8. Bloomberg News

  6. AI can redefine the speed at which business operations and accounting interact – so much so that the term “continuous accounting” will have an altogether new meaning, reducing or even eliminating the lag time between actual business operations and the availability of the related accounting information.

Accountants got armed with desktop software. Then with cloud software. Then with integrated cloud softwares (multiple softwares integrating). Then with more automated cloud software. In the years that it took this transformation to happen, accountants’ services evolved from transactional to advisory. AI can leapfrog this evolution/transformation of accountants’ services. Note the essence of the previous sentence – it means AI will enhance/augment the accountants. It will be a new tool in the hands of accountants.

Your imagination is the limit to how you can leverage AI for your practice. For now, it is important to equip yourself with the fundamental awareness of how technology works – databases, algorithms, integration, automation, machine learning, Blockchain, AI, etc. This awareness will give you a better chance of exploring how you can leverage Ai in your practice. You already have the “context” of both your clients’ businesses and of the accounting profession. Accountants will soon have the superpowers – to become AI-ccountants!

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