Bookkeeping software automation is like the Tesla car – it can drive on its own but it will crash without the right settings and input.

What a century we are living in! As an accountant who started in the early days of computing I remember the revolution of computerised data entry versus manual accounting. A job that occupied me 40 hrs/week got cut down to 10hrs! I was in awe and dutifully went along with all the innovations and software updates ever since.

Now we are at a new revolution. AI is taking over data entry and the books are floating in the cloud accessible for anybody anywhere.

Am I excited the same as I was then? Yes I actually am. Who wouldn’t like the tedious repetitive data entry being taken away to focus on the real bookwork – putting all figures together into a picture for the business owner.

But my excitement is dampened by the increasing misuse and misunderstanding of AI.

Software providers are advertising misleading information about their products – let AI input all your receipts, let software take care of your invoicing, get automatic reporting and then enter your own tax return. Happy Days! But, is it?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for these changes – hey, I love every new stage that is getting released as it helps me – human – to do my job better. But that’s what AI is and always was supposed to be – a servant to us humans. Not a replacement.

The books of a business are like a living organism – not one set is the same like the other. Primarily because they represent the business dealings of a human being, the way he operates, the way he controls, the way he interacts with the outside world. To understand that and put the systems together that make sense for him you need the intelligence of a human. 

Why do we still have eye-to-eye meetings? Because we need to “see” our business partner for all the non-verbal cues that can’t be captured through words alone. We humans have a very complex way of communicating and robotic engineers will agree that a robot that understands the “between-the-lines” communication is a long way away, if not impossible. How can we then trust AI alone to understand what we need from our business data?

Not AI alone, but we can work with templates that are created by humans, you may say.

Really? So you think individual business performance is possible to be captured through default templates? Ask the small business owner, because that is what they are getting at the moment. Do they truly understand every report they are getting from their AI driven cloud software?

I can tell you, no. Why do I say that? Because we are currently seeing more and more webinars, podcasts and training sessions offered that teach the business owner how to read his own reports! HIS reports from HIS business that HE started.

Squeeze every individual small business owner into a mould and you are getting easy to handle clients that can be serviced with a press of the button. Who is winning here? Software providers, business advisers and accountants. But not the one who was told along the way that AI will make his life so much easier.

I’m still excited about the possibilities that AI opened up for the financial industry – I just think we all should be getting real and use it for the client, not for ourselves.