Robots will enhance – not replace accountants

Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Great article from Business Insider

It’s an interesting time to be a bookkeeper and an accountant. Australia’s economic reform is focused on being a prominent player in the world of innovation, the working class is changing global politics, and news articles debate whether robots can uproot our jobs. 

In fact, the latest report from CEDA states that, “More than five million jobs, almost 40 per cent of Australian jobs that exist today, have a moderate to high likelihood of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years, due to technological advancements”. 

It begs many questions for the people on the ground within my industry. I am a proud bookkeeper, and that’s one of the jobs often quoted as being at risk of irrelevance. Certainly, I know that bookkeepers and accountants have access to more than 500 add-ons and integrations using Xero, which means technology can automate the time-consuming tasks we once did. So with all this power at play, what does that mean for our industry? Can robots really take our place? 

Just a robot and a dream 

Let’s think about it in real terms. I read an article recently that spoke about two people who quit their stable jobs and bought a bar, with no previous experience. The beauty of their decision, the article said, was that they could buy one point of sale system to provide all the information they needed: every drink sold, at what time, profitability levels, stock … even the financial information that could help them complete their tax return.

No bookkeeper, no accountant – just two new business owners, a ‘robot’ and a dream.

We all know that a small bar needs to run a tight ship. As a business, it must keep a close eye on staffing, costs and pricing to ensure profitability at all times. Often, there’s simply no space for big bookkeeping or accounting bills – especially from those still charging hours to file paper receipts.

There’s only space for a nimble, streamlined service that delivers data-driven insights in a timely, cost efficient manner. And that’s the key – it’s not just the data that businesses need, it’s the insight that can be invested back into the business. 

For data to be insightful, it must go beyond standard data aggregation services and tailor the numbers against an evolving knowledge of the business. And that’s where humans come in.

Situation, data, insight, action

It doesn’t make business sense to flood a busy small business owner with streams of ever-flowing data – especially if those business owners are learning the ropes as they go. No one has time to make sense of all the data available. There’s just too much of it. And at the same time, it won’t help to keep your clients in the dark to their data either. 

It’s far better for a small business to receive figures tailored to their evolving needs, delivered at precisely the right time to make a difference, from someone who can help turn those insights into actions.

And for that, you need an advisor who stands hand in hand with the robots, so to speak. You need someone who has taken the time to learn the best apps available for your small business – and who uses those same skills to streamline their own service. 

Statistics show that while only 51 percent of small businesses survive more than five years, 88 percent of those on Xero will still be around to celebrate their fifth birthday. And crucially, 92 percent of small businesses on Xero have an advisor. 

The formula for success

The fact of the matter is that turning data into insights and insights into action will always lie at the heart of innovative business. Once, such advisory services were only possible to monolithic organisations with large analytics and finance teams. 

Now, it’s at the fingertips of every bookkeeper and small business owner willing to work with technology – not against it. And that’s the real beauty of business.

Melanie Power is the Head of Bookkeeping at Xero.

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