The arrival of the first cloud accounting tool in 2007 signalled a huge step-change for the accounting industry. After Xero, Intuit QuickBooks and Sage soon entered the fray with their own game-changing cloud products. Cloud-based accounting quickly became the norm.
With artificial intelligence (AI), we’re entering the next phase in accounting history, adding huge benefits and transforming the way that accountants work once again.
From human resources to horticulture, the benefits of automation are currently being felt across every industry, freeing staff up from routine tasks and allowing them to focus on higher-value work.
You may already use an AI-powered tool in your practice already. Take data capture tools and optical character recognition (OCR) software, which use AI to recognise printed or handwritten text within scanned documents, taking away much of the pain of expenses management.
What is AI?
The term AI is a broad one, covering a range of techniques from basic, rule-following systems to modern machine learning, in which computers teach themselves to carry out tasks. Andrew Ng, former Chief Scientist at Baidu, China’s equivalent to Google, has labelled AI ‘the new electricity’. More than anything, AI is an enabling kind of technology.
AI is nothing new. In fact, it’s a concept that’s been around since the 1950s. The only reason it has taken hold in recent years is the combination of vastly improved computer processing power and the abundance of readily available data, which have made the technology a practical reality. With this new dawn, a steady stream of commercial applications and use cases have emerged.
In the same way that electricity completely changed the way we approach areas like transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare, AI is having a transformative effect on almost every industry.
Despite the ongoing technological shift brought on by AI, cashflow forecasting is still often delivered using traditional methods. Most accounting professionals build cashflow forecasts by creating a model using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, which although tried and tested, is time-consuming, quickly out of date and far from cost-effective.
With the help of AI, it’s possible to automate the entire process of modelling a forecast, and generate an accurate prediction in minutes, rather than hours.
Fluidly is carving out this revolutionary approach to cashflow management, called Intelligent Cashflow, which helps businesses and their advisors look further ahead and create more space for financial decision-making.
Intelligent Cashflow makes it possible to tackle cashflow as a whole, by forecasting as far ahead as a year and drilling into transaction-level detail, rather than keeping cashflow confined to something fixed and static, like an Excel spreadsheet.
It works like an autopilot, continuously monitoring, optimising and providing alerts to what’s coming ahead.
Importantly, autopilots don’t replace pilots, they assist them. They allow a plane to fly straight and level without a pilot’s constant attention, greatly reducing their workload.
In a commercial aircraft an autopilot is like an extra crew member, freeing pilots up to communicate with air traffic control, monitor on-board systems and plan for weather contingencies. In the same way, AI doesn’t replace your expertise as an accountant; it merely takes on some of the heavy data lifting, so you can stay more focused on your clients.
The future of cashflow services
The next generation of cashflow services will empower accountants to pay more attention to clients’ problems, make better informed decisions and help their clients prepare for the future.
Just as cloud technology has recast the accounting landscape over the past decade, AI has the potential to give a powerful boost to the way your accounting firm operates.
With the help of technology, you can go beyond answering ‘What?’ has happened with a client’s cash, and move into the more complex questions of ‘So what?’ and ‘Now what?’.
Most of all, AI-driven cashflow software can supercharge the advice you give your clients. New technology provides the opportunity to build an accurate, 360-degree view of cashflow, that learns from historic data to provide a short, medium and long-term prediction.