There is an understanding in the tech world that anything repeatable, however complex and sophisticated, is ripe for the application of Artificial Intelligence.
The auditing of accounts is most definitely repeatable! Traditionally this has been done by armies of part- or recently-qualified accountants, sent to often unglamourous client sites to do the grunt work of tracing thousands of sample transactions through the systems and books of their clients.
I was speaking at a conference for a Big Four accountancy firm recently and like all the big accounting firms, they have been extensively testing and deploying artificial intelligence based auditing systems in their assurance business.
One of the partners explained that in his estimation, 80% (yes, that’s right eight-zero percent) of audit work TODAY could be fully automated with the resultant saving in people cost.
In the discussion that followed, he was asked why this tumultuous change hadn’t already taken place. He explained that as the other three of the Big Four hadn’t done so yet, neither had they.
But how long will that go on for? As soon as one firm finds themselves ‘squeezed’ they will surely take action, with the others following suit in rapid succession, just to remain competitive.
Now the 80% figure might have been exaggerated, but even if it’s half right then almost overnight tens or even hundreds of thousands of recently qualified bright-young-things may find themselves looking for something else to do.
As leaders, I think we should be seriously looking at this phenomenon right now, whether you are in accounting, or in fact any business where people do professional, but repeatable work. As well as the business and commercial implications, surely we also have a duty of care to the people it may impact?
These changes will require real leadership. Are your leaders ready to lead though this change, with the skills, mindsets and confidence they are going to need?