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Are Robots Coming For Accountants?

We spent last week at Xerocon, an annual event that brings together cloud accounting leaders for education, inspiration, networking, and good times (accountant-style). One recurrent theme was automation—perhaps an obvious topic for a cloud accounting conference since we’re all about automating business bookkeeping tasks, but also a prevalent topic in every business field right now.

Countless tasks are automated in today’s economy, and that inspires real fear in many people. Keynote speaker on disruption Shawn Kanungo shared a website called Will Robots Take My Job?, where you can plug in any profession and get a percentage likelihood that your job will cease to exist. It’s a lighthearted look but does use real data from the 2013 Oxford report, “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?”, which estimated the likely impact of computers on 702 occupations in the U.S. economy.

When you type in accountant, the site gives a 94% probability of automation. Automation risk level: You are doomed.

Shawn shared this statistic, and then went on to argue that we actually aren’t so doomed as a profession. Automation allows accountants to separate tasks from our professional expertise, meaning that we can spend less time entering data and more time applying human insights to data. When we remove the manual processes, we’re able to focus on the tasks that robots and computers aren’t so good at doing.

Here’s an example. When you use a cloud accounting platform, like Xero, that integrates all of your financial data, you save a lot of time and get books that are a lot more organized. Where you need a human touch is when it comes to interpreting your books and answering the questions that are critical to running and growing your business. Say you know you need to make some major capital purchases. How will those purchases affect your tax liability? Is it to your benefit to spread those purchases over two years? Are you better served by financing the purchases or paying cash outright? Will you be able to afford the loan payments?

Those are the kinds of questions that a skilled advisor can help you to answer. Tony Ward, President of the Americas at Xero, shared the statistic that 50% of businesses fail without a financial advisor to help them understand their books and make decisions based on past financial performance and future projections. That number is staggering. Having the right advisor looking at your books on a regular basis can make or break your business.

Helping businesses grow is our passion, and cloud accounting paired with financial advisory services is the way we do it. Several of the Xero speakers pointed out that we have the opportunity to raise the GDP of the world, one business at a time. While that’s a beautiful vision, it’s also a realistic success metric. Another stat: 90% of businesses in North America are not using cloud accounting. If you’re running a business, you have an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition simply by implementing better bookkeeping practices. Contact us today to get a plan tailored to your business.