Adapting AI to a Modern Professional Accounting Environment
Artificial intelligence can be a powerful tool for organizations looking to scale more efficiently – but only if business leaders first gain a solid understanding of what these technologies can really do and how they can best be leveraged.
Michael Barry, CFO and Practice Leader of Emerging Growth at Kranz Consulting, shares some of his thoughts and insights regarding the current state of AI and how startups and growing organizations can utilize this helpful technology to bolster efficiency and scale.
What to know about how to adapt AI to a modern professional accounting environment:
- Understanding the current state of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- How startups and growing organizations are utilizing AI for innovation, efficiency & scale
- What CFOs can do to navigate strategic AI utilization
Understanding the current state of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The emergence of search tools such as Google were initially seen as a threat to people’s jobs when they gained ascendancy 25 years ago. The sudden availability of unlimited knowledge at your fingertips would mean the end of industry experts as a valued resource in companies.
However, the opposite rang true.
We have incorporated search tools into our daily roles, eliminating what were once grossly inefficient tasks and allowing us to focus on the human side of our jobs. Today, we see a similar reaction to the proliferation of AI tools.
In the same way that Google revolutionized our jobs 25 years ago, tools like ChatGPT are likely to have a massive and permanent impact on professional roles.
How startups and growing organizations are utilizing AI for innovation, efficiency & scale
Large language models and AI tools such as ChatGPT have allowed the mass generation of curated content. Whereas Google can find content, AI language models can create it.
It seems like the perfect technology to disrupt and revolutionize our lives, but it’s not quite that simple. Large language models rely on the interpretation – and extrapolation – of words that already exist.
These models are not creating truly new content; they are simply creating what they think is the right block of words in response to any given prompt.
They are best thought of as a conversation simulator. This, in and of itself, is an incredible technological revolution – but it hasn’t yet incorporated the nuance of human thought.
It’s one thing to have an AI tool analyze, interpret, and report on a set of financial statements and data, but it is another to understand how to apply concepts such as risk tolerance, board policies, changing market conditions and competitor behavior.
This will continue to be the role of humans. In our role as business professionals, we are always contemplative of how an individual is likely to react to bad news, how corporate history plays a role in certain decisions that have been made, and how one version of a financial model is ‘better’ than another.
Today’s AI tools simply do not have this type of functionality – however, while a human touch is still a necessity, AI tools can and should be leveraged to help set the stage for more effective business transformations.
Common use cases of AI for startups and growing organizations:
- Managing customer service and support ongoings.
- Driving quick and effective data analysis and extracting insights.
- Delivering personalized content via analysis of user behavior.
- Forecasting trends and potential outcomes to strategically plan for challenging scenarios.
- Detecting and preventing fraud.
- Managing inventory, supply chain, maintenance and more.
- Utilizing virtual assistants to schedule meetings, manage tasks and tackle administrative duties.
- Automating marketing efforts and creating marketing materials such as articles, social media captions, videos and more.
What CFOs can do to navigate strategic AI utilization
Thus remains the challenge of a CFO in rapidly changing times: applying technology to execute the lower-value tasks to free up time to focus on the strategic, high-impact role that a CFO has always played.
At Kranz, we have long used technology to reduce (or even eliminate) routine work such as bookkeeping, systems reconciliations and operational reporting.
The emergence of AI and its role in finance and accounting is a revolutionary and obvious progression, but it doesn’t spell the end of our roles as strategists and enablers of business strategy. At least, not yet.
Quick tips for utilizing AI for your startup or growing organization:
- Ensure you stay up to date on the latest AI tools, trends and technologies.
- Work closely with high-level executives to gain a solid understanding of key business drivers and identify areas where AI can bolster goal achievement.
- Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure a solid ROI and identify and monitor KPIs to support effective AI implementations.
- Conduct assessments for risk, data security, compliance and more to eliminate bottlenecks and ensure adherence to laws and regulations.
- Collaborate across teams and departments to drive AI project success and ensure everyone has what they need to succeed.