How is AI driving the progress of the accountancy industry?

AI will be crucial for better understanding user intent, automating routine processes, analysing and simplifying large data sets, and streamlining how accountancy firms manage information, according to Ville Somppi, Vice President of Industry Solutions at M-Files

Accountancy practice management software has come a long way. Today, features like automated billing and reconciliations are easily integrated into the day-to-day practice workflow of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK customers.

Our employees work side by side with our customers to create and manage these solutions – driven by a deep understanding of their needs and addressing the rapid changes in their environment.

However, it’s often hard to look beyond improving performance in day-to-day operations. Amid Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions, accountancy practices and their clients are dealing with an unpredictable economic landscape. Future business planning can appear daunting.

However, technology can support accountancy practices (and their clients) in making informed business decisions, and planning for the future. In the first part of our Accountancy Practice Management for Future-Fit Growth series, we’ll explore how they can use technology to define and easily track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Doing so gives practices closer control of performance tracking, and deeper insights that will inform strategic growth plans.

Saving Time

For several decades, business technology platforms have enabled practices to track performance metrics that they have customised. This highlights areas that qualify for improvement and underpins strategic planning.

Contemporary technology, such as CCH KPI Monitoring, makes setting up KPIs faster and easier for accountancy practices than ever before. This is vital today. The current business landscape demands that firms assess and amend KPIs more frequently, based on fresh market variables. KPIs such as client retention rate and business time-to-recovery have become increasingly prominent performance indicators in the past year. If clunky technology makes KPI management difficult, practices have less time and insight to plan future growth.

Reducing Risk
CCH KPI Monitoring makes it far easier to track KPIs and report on them. This is fundamental in minimising risk. For example, if a KPI is set to track and escalate debt filtered by overdue dates, the ability to easily set alerts and automatically generate reports is critical to practice performance management.

Some practices are manually running monthly reports to measure KPIs. Others are running real-time reporting engines, a key feature of CCH KPI Monitoring. This latter solution allows practices to review essential data at any time – covering both performance management and compliance requirements. They can do so remotely or on-premise.

This means that firms can assess issues before they become problems, and thus act proactively. Real-time reporting is a true asset in building a future-fit practice.

The Proof is in the Practice
A number of Wolters Kluwer customers have been using CCH KPI Monitoring for several years now. Our customers look to us when they need to be right. Ryecroft Glenton has successfully integrated CCH KPI Monitoring with its own system. This consolidates information from several sources, including CCH Central and CCH Practice Management.

“We can use the year end date to trigger a sequence of reminders. Have we asked for the books? Have they been received? If a request to a client has been outstanding for a certain period, the partner will receive an alert via email. For limited companies, we can monitor the corporation tax and Companies House filing deadlines – as well as the different deadlines for pension schemes”

– Ian Smith, partner at Ryecroft Glenton

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to play a central role in the future of accountancy – the value of AI in the accounting sector is projected to grow 30% year-over-year until 2027 – and forward-thinking firms are already starting to capitalise on the potential of this tech.

So, which areas of accountancy will AI revolutionise moving forwards? And how is the sector already underutilising its capabilities?

Where are firms going wrong?
AI will have industry-wide impact on the accountancy sector, eliminating human error and reducing the time it takes to complete an engagement. Tax preparation, audit and financial reporting are all specific areas where AI can be deployed more effectively. For firms operating globally, AI will be a vital tool for standardising processes and streamlining collaboration.

However, so far there has been limited adoption of AI due to outdated legacy systems that do not support its integration, and everchanging compliance and regulation that deter firms from implementing this technology. Updating systems and overcoming this resistance to change should be priorities for accountancy firms looking to modernise procedures.

Managing information with AI and meta-data
Metadata can help find information easily by enriching the search criteria. Not only is the system looking for a specific keyword, but it knows to limit searches to defined categories, such as engagement name and year.

Typically, this metadata is added manually, but AI can help automatically classify data to simplify future searches. For example, AI can determine that a document is a non-disclosure agreement for a designated client, and file it according to this information.

Developers will place added emphasis on understanding user intent to deliver relevant search results, even if the criteria provided is unclear. Once this tech is implemented, AI will boost search capabilities for accountants by pinpointing the snippet of text, financial information, workpaper, or data set they are looking for, instead of leaving them to comb through entire documents and folders to access what they need.

Meeting the compliance burden
Thanks to AI, accountancy firms can automatically classify information and then apply pre-defined compliance rules. For example, if a document is an agreement that needs to be signed, contains PII-data (personally identifiable information) that needs to be protected with GDPR compliant rules or is part of a specific client engagement, the access rights can automatically be set according to client confidentiality policy.

Furthermore, firms that innovate information management processes will benefit from electronic audit trails and built in controls, where all information can be protected according to the rules of the business and regulatory body. Therefore, when a firm is audited, they can very simply show who has viewed or modified a file, prove that all users have read and accepted the latest standard operating procedure and prove that only relevant users have authority to access the documentation and the documentation has received all necessary levels of review.

Surfacing content recommendations
AI has already infiltrated our daily lives through content recommendations seen in internet searches, social media browsing, online shopping and entertainment streaming. The same technologies are emerging in the business world, providing the information people need, before they even look for it.

Through AI, accountants can autopopulate homescreens based on the client meetings in their calendar. This technology also allows accountants to easily identify all client related files and information and share these with pre-specified users to ensure sensitive information remains confidential, yet easy to find for relevant parties.

Knowledge management
Cashing in on knowledge management capabilities will help accountants aggregate sensitive client information and communicate financial information securely with only relevant users.

For example, AI is standardising contracts and engagement letters across firms by automating their production, ensuring accurate information is presented every time. It is also important that accountants across the firm have access to a single version of the truth. This means organising documents so that they're easy to find for all team members, guaranteeing there is only one version being used.

Accountancy firms should also consider whether they are leveraging AI to facilitate knowledge sharing between employees and boost the efficiency of day-to-day operations. This can be achieved by allowing accountants to codify past successes into templates that automate routine processes and can be used repeatedly.

Move with the times
AI has emerged as the lynchpin of digital transformation in the accountancy sector, so it’s time for firms to stop fearing this technology and instead embrace the mass of possibilities it creates. To avoid being left behind, accountants should integrate AI into everyday processes, with the implementation of modern information management the ideal place to begin an overhaul.

Apr 2023

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