A 2015 CEDA report suggested 40 per cent of jobs in Australia were highly “susceptible” to computerisation within the coming 15 years, while last year consultancy AlphaBeta reported three million Australian jobs (that’s around a third of all local jobs) were at risk by 2030. Knowing it’s not so much a question of ‘if’ than ‘how’, smart business leaders are considering how AI applications can make a positive impact to their businesses and integrating them as soon as possible.
The accounting industry has consistently appeared as one of the industries most likely to feel the impact of automation, with a 2017 McKinsey study suggesting the accounting industry could make up a large portion of the predicted 800 million jobs lost globally to automation by 2030. I believe the increasing automation of traditional compliance services presents a significant opportunity for the accounting industry. It does not eliminate the need for trusted business advice - instead it offers an opportunity to support the ongoing evolution of the accountant to a trusted and influential small business advisor. Automation also allows accountants and bookkeepers to cost-effectively take on more and more work on behalf of small businesses, such as processing transactions, allowing small businesses to focus on their passions.
The capacity to inspire and delight
At MYOB we think AI will be well suited to supporting or even eliminating a lot of the steps that accountants, bookkeepers and small businesses need to go through today, making a lot more of the process invisible - and the remaining part inspiring and delightful for the customer. By creating products that enable an accountant to do in five minutes what would have once taken five hours, we’ve integrated AI applications to work alongside the human employee, making them more productive and therefore more valuable to the business and clients. We’ve explored many opportunities to draw on AI in our business; from automating the manipulation of data, to generating natural language insights from data, to extracting relevant data from bills using computer vision.
Increasingly we’re finding opportunities in AI not just to drive better insights, but to drive better-informed decision-making at the right time. Accountants and bookkeepers have so many insights available from their data today that it can feel impossible to know what information is most relevant and when, let alone to customise to each individual client. We created our AI-powered product MYOB Advisor to allow accountants to have more of those conversations with their clients, enabling them to spend more time on advisory work.
Human-led value creation
This collaborative approach between human and AI offers a productive way for businesses across a broad range of industries to recognise where actionable insights can be best leveraged, then build out processes and products to give human employees what they need to deliver those insights. There’s always going to be a need for human elements within the process; to help explain, to guide the client through, to help interpret and help give some judgement to the data. Rather than looking at AI as a threat to automate your entire industry, look at how it can help your teams to do their job better, and grow their value as the industry shifts with this new influx of information. Just as we are increasingly helping our clients understand and embrace new technology, medical suppliers can help their user base embrace digital health platforms and energy providers can encourage their customers to track their usage through data.
It’s these types of applications that demonstrate the one thing that won’t change in an increasingly automated world - businesses still need to be led by customer empathy. To really understand the customer’s problems before you try to solve them. While AI can continue to support deeper and more actionable insights to understand these problems, and help to surface these insights at the right time, empathising is still a profoundly human skill, and one humans will continue to own for years to come.
David Weickhardt, General Manager, Product, MYOB