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Podcast: The rise of A.I.: A critical inflection point for the profession

A.I. is certainly high on the hype cycle these days, particularly in our profession.

Here’s the thing, though, and there’s really no getting around it: This isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. We’ve been through stuff like this before. Excel was supposed to kill our profession, remember? Then came the Internet, and Turbo Tax, and the cloud. And you know what? We’re still here, adding greater value for our clients than ever.

But technology today is also evolving faster than ever, meaning it’s harder to keep up than ever. Automated solutions are eating away at more of our foundational tasks than ever. For the time being, though, they’re still just tools — tools that augment what we do and allow us to do it with greater efficiency, speed, effectiveness, all while adding more value for our clients than ever.

It’s in that light that CPA.com, the technology arm of the American Institute of CPAs, released a whitepaper recently titled “The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: A Critical Inflection Point for the Accounting Profession.” It’s also in that light that we sit down with this week’s guest, Kacee Johnson, a strategic advisor with CPA.com.

Listen to our conversation here:

 

In this conversation, we cover:

‘Accountants are ready for a cultural shift’
Sage released a report of its own recently, titled  “Practice of Now 2019.” Sage is typically on the cutting edge of all things accounting and finance, but this one points to something bigger than usual.

Here’s an excerpt here from an Accounting Today article titled “Accountants are Ready for a Cultural Shift.” It’s written by Ranica Arrowsmith, who writes:

“Accountants are more ready than ever before to talk about cultural shift.

“According to a survey commissioned by ERP and accounting software provider Sage, 90 percent of accountants believe there has been a cultural shift wherein professionals no longer see themselves as number crunchers. Survey data suggest that this shift is being partly driven by clients and the marketplace, which together are demanding much more than the traditional number crunching that has historically driven the accounting profession. Workforces are becoming ever more multigenerational — as baby boomers meet millennials, the profession is being influenced by new and different attitudes, expectations and skills.

“Jennifer Warawa, executive vice president of partners, accountants and alliances at Sage, said during a panel discussion at Sage Summit on May 14 that while in the past accountants would always respond ‘yes’ to whether they were fostering diversity and inclusion in their firm culture — because nobody wants to say ‘no’ — she now feels that firms are starting to put into place real strategies for building a diverse staff.

“This shift shows a move slightly away from the hyper-focus on new technology when compared to last year’s survey, and a new focus on building strong firms with distinctive cultures that lasts. According to Warawa, technology has enabled this shift: ‘The ongoing digital revolution is also contributing to this overall shift, with technologies like cloud computing becoming mainstream and artificial intelligence easing the administrative burden,’ she stated in the survey report. ‘This progress has helped forward-thinking practices be more productive, while forcing them to accept the challenges of improving man with machine.'”

Are these technologies transforming our profession? Yes, but not by stealing our jobs. They’re forcing us to diversify. They’re forcing us to become better versions of ourselves. And they’re forcing us to do it really quickly.

That’s why I was excited to speak with Kacee Johnson. We talked about the new doors that A.I. is opening for the profession. We talked about whether the profession is moving fast enough, quite frankly, to keep up with the dizzying pace of technological change today. And we talked about what folks in our profession should be doing now to prepare for the impact that A.I. will inevitably have on them (sooner rather than later).

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