There’s an age-old dilemma that has accompanied the advent of new technologies throughout human history. As we invent new and more efficient mechanisms for achieving goals, we’re prone to change the ways in which we complete tasks in our daily lives. In the workplace, this process has the potential to cause anxiety as people see their job responsibilities change and perhaps fear that their services will no longer be needed, at least not in the same way they once were. One business field undergoing such a shift is accounting. To better understand these changes, we sought the advice of Dabie Tsai, a longtime accounting and auditing expert. Below, we’ll explore the changes currently occurring in accounting and why they won’t be the dire transition that some fear.
Let’s first take a closer look at the professional experience of Dabie Tsai, who recently left the auditing firm KPMG after twenty-three years to pursue broader career options. During her time with the firm, where she served as a partner for 11 years, she developed an extensive array of specialties. These include SEC periodic and IPO filings for both domestic and foreign registrants, US GAAP and IFRS, and SOX 404 controls and processes. She is also an expert in consolidations, mergers, credit risk, acquisitions, and corporate governance matters.
At KPMG, Tsai worked in several different locations within international firm and spent time in the US, Canada, Spain, and other locations. Her work saw her managing large global teams of 250 people and servicing some of the largest financial institution in the world. Her international experience not only helped her to speak multiple languages but also allowed her to understand accounting and auditing through a global lens.
Influence of computers
The biggest change to come into accounting in the modern age is the introduction of computers. Though there is practically no profession that hasn’t been affected in some way by these devices, accounting has been especially influenced. Tsai predicts that computers will continue to be the driving force of change in the field, saying, “While there are a number of exciting developments taking place in the world of accounting, the implementation of machine learning technologies will be one of the prime drivers of change in the near future.”
This is referring to the development and use of artificial intelligence to help automate tasks with identifiable patterns. Machine learning algorithms allow computers to interpret and utilize data to accomplish tasks by trial and error. This type of technology is well-suited for tasks that are repetitive, such as data entry or basic analysis. Due to its nature, it also becomes more refined and accurate through use, meaning the technology should increase in efficacy as adoption rates widen.
Tasks appropriate for machine learning
As this technology becomes more widespread, many experts believe that it will become a necessary component of any modern accounting and auditing firm, similar to how you wouldn’t consider having an office without computers today. This is partly due to machine learning allowing workers to be more efficient with their time by taking over many lower-level tasks. As this happens, people in the profession will be able to focus their energy on work that is beyond the scope of what artificial intelligence can achieve.
Potential for automation
Though these types of advances have the potential to help us accomplish a lot more in our daily lives, they are also a concern to some in the field of accounting. These people worry that with increased automation comes a lower need for staff members in general. While it is true that machine learning will change the modern office environment, there will still be plenty for humans to do. “As algorithms take over more remedial tasks, people in the office will have more time to focus on higher-level, more complex work requiring expert judgment,” says Tsai. “Ultimately this will have a positive impact on workplace satisfaction in general.”
The sentiment behind Tsai’s comments is that there are many inherently human parts of modern accounting that will remain even after machine learning becomes widespread. Applying cumulative experience-built judgment and interpersonal interactions are just two areas in which humans will be able to better focus on as computers assist with more rote tasks. By embracing this transition, and identifying areas in which they can outperform machines, accountants will find that this trend will likely improve the quality of life.
Though it is natural for there to be some anxiety surrounding the introduction of new technology into a profession, it does not need to be cause for concern. Developments such as machine learning will allow workers to be more efficient in their tasks and focus on a number of items that could ultimately prove more interesting to many in the profession. With the advice from experts in the field, such as Dabie Tsai, workers will be able to smoothly transition into utilizing artificial intelligence algorithms in their work. This should be a net gain for clients and staff alike.