AP Automation

What Automation Really Means for Accountants

July 12, 2017

Robot graphic

Automation is not a new concept in accounting, but it’s often one that is viewed with some measure of skepticism. While the media is keen to push the concept of robot accountants taking over the industry, the reality is something quite different. With the advent of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, we’ve been ushered into a new era where automatons can not only perform physical work, but cognitive tasks. For financial professions, this is an enormously positive advancement.

According to a 2017 McKinsey report, the effects of automation will play out very differently across each job sector. Over the next decade, automation is expected to eliminate only a few job types entirely.  Looking at emerging technologies now, less than 5 percent of occupations in North America could be fully automated.

Instead, we’re more likely to see a transformational effect on specific job activities, especially in those industries that rely heavily on knowledge or data sharing, like the financial and healthcare sectors. McKinsey predicts that half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055. More specifically, the report points to data collection and processing as an activity that’s ripe for automation.

Already, accounting automation technologies exist that can remove the burden of those grinding, highly repetitive, data-focused tasks that form the financial foundation of every accounting team. The automation of data processes and data entry is also aligned with another benefit, namely better data quality through error reduction.

Imagine a world in which you, as an accountant, didn’t have to rely on manual data entry anymore. How many hundreds of hours would be freed up over the course of a year, and more importantly, how would you reallocate them?

We are at the forefront of this new technological boom, and while the rolling wave of automation is still moving at a slow clip—particularly in the accounting industry—the McKinsey report suggests that these changes could actually start to happen very quickly at the micro level as individual companies begin to digitize and streamline their data-dependent processes. Get ahead of the wave by learning more now about accounts payable automation, and how it can empower your organization’s accounting team today.

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