The Risk and Reward of AI on Accounting Processes and Functions

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AI bot working at a desk in accounting

Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a critical role in the future of accounting departments as the typical workflows are primed for a change up. On the flipside, accounting leaders are traditionally change-averse and are unsure of what kind of threat AI poses in terms of data security. With a thorough understanding of AI’s capabilities and the confidence to manage its vulnerabilities and the ones it creates; financial leaders can embrace these new technologies and the value they bring versus fear them.

Assessing the Risks of Implementing AI

Data security is a top concern for accounting leaders and teams who work with and manage financial data daily. Security breaches are unfortunately par for the course, and it is imperative to be prepared when unauthorized access puts your business’s financial data, as well as sensitive client and employee data, at risk. When vetting an AI-enhanced technology partner, be sure to ask them if they’ve experienced breaches and how they’ve handled them. AI exponentially improves how we can use technology more intelligently more than just a binary way, similarly it increases the ways in which technology can be exploited.

Another risk that is specific to AI is hallucinations, which is a response that contains false or misleading information presented as fact. It can happen, even with the best platform partners. And this is why human oversight is still necessary, even when you’re automating workflows. This here is largely why AI replacing humans is a myth. Humans will always be necessary to cross-check AI-enhanced workflows. As AI solutions get better with hallucinations, they will only enhance human workflows and act as supplementary tools, rather than replace humans.

Reaping the AI Reward

AI-powered systems can extract vital information from invoices, such as vendor details, invoice amounts and due dates, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing costly manual errors, which results in improved data integrity. This frees up accounting professionals to do more work requiring critical thinking, for instance, financial analytics or building financial models for forecasting, than data entry and management – a win all around.

AI can assist with stressful and time-consuming annual audits by organizing and retrieving necessary documents and by eliminating numerous steps and human error. By starting with the source of truth, be it an invoice or receipt, and extracting the data and categorizing it based of its LLM, it will be more accurate than any human data entry. This ensures compliance year-round with ever-changing financial regulations and providing detailed reports on financial transactions.

AI can also assist in vetting and assessing vendor and supplier performance by analyzing wide sources of data to identify reliable vendors, negotiate favorable terms and ensure timely payments. This can significantly amplify supplier relationships and make for better and more efficient partnerships. It can also analyze contracts and ensure terms are being met to further massage and nurture vendor and supplier relationships.

One very favorable reward for using AI-powered tools is their ability to speed up employee expense report processing by automatically verifying receipts, categorizing expenses and ensuring compliance with company policies. This not only reduces the administrative burden on AP teams and ensures there are no “double reimbursements” sent to employees but also keeps your team happy because they’re getting paid back quicker.

By leveraging AI, accounting departments can provide real-time cash flow forecasts by analyzing historical payment data and supplier behavior. This enables organizations to optimize their working capital and make informed financial decisions.

Training in AI-Powered Solutions is Key to Team Success

Accounting teams must be trained by their selected automation vendor in how to use and manage the selected platform. It’s not just about selecting the right automation vendor; it’s about ensuring that teams are equipped to leverage the full potential of the chosen platform, not just on day one, but as it evolves with new updates and features. A true implementation partner will have a robust training program that leaves no questions unanswered and 24/7 support. This can also help to ensure that the solutions remain secure and are being used in the most efficient way to truly boost workflows and provide meaningful results. By staying updated and proficient in the latest features and best practices, accounting teams can unlock the true power of AI-driven workflows, streamline processes and better deliver tangible results.

It’s important for leadership to also understand how to train the AI and LLM itself in ways that help it continuously learn patterns and unique identifiers of the organization.

Conclusion 

Implementing AI technologies is not a one-and-done undertaking. Like any tech-powered workflow, it must be continuously evaluated and updated. By keeping these guidelines in mind, accounting teams will ensure they are maximizing the potential of their selected AI tool and vendor partner. Together, they can navigate the ever-changing landscape of technology and drive sustained success.

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