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Accounting Firms Will Not Be Leading the AI Revolution

a very old computer

Rightworks has released their inaugural 2024 Accounting Firm Technology Survey and the results tell us what we already done knew: Accounting firms are hesitant to adopt next-gen technology. Hell, a bunch of them are hesitant to move to the cloud. In 2024.

The survey of decision makers and influencers at accounting, tax and bookkeeping firms revealed that nearly 60 percent of respondents identified their firms as slow adopters of new technologies like AI. The firms that consider themselves more advanced in tech adoption reported increased revenue though, as much as 39 percent more per employee. Maybe that’ll get the Luddites’ attention.

More takeaways as outlined by Rightworks in the press release:

Slow tech adoption evident in a recent survey of nearly 500 US-based accounting firms. 43% of respondents reported that less than 75% of their apps and data had been migrated to the cloud, indicating firms are missing out on the critical security, collaboration and efficiency benefits of a secure cloud environment.

Despite low adoption, the accounting profession has a positive outlook on the benefits of technology. 88% of respondents indicated that technology positively impacts workplace efficiency and client services. The top benefits cited were the ability to support flexible/remote workers and heightened firm and client data security.

In a profession that suffers from technology adoption challenges, embracing AI will likely take longer.

Ya think??

A bit more insight into accounting firms’ tech aversion can be found in the survey results:

Diving further into the subject of AI, the study found that 65% of respondents reported being only slightly comfortable or not comfortable at all with their firm using AI technology. That comfort level may be driven by a lack of understanding, considering 69% of total respondents reported being only slightly knowledgeable about AI or not knowledgeable about it at all.

Moreover, while 73% of respondents indicated that they are not currently using AI in any way, a notable 35% reported having no plans to incorporate AI. Within this group, the most popular reason provided in the open-ended responses for avoiding AI altogether was an admitted lack of understanding about it and how it would benefit their business. Additionally, respondents cited concerns about cost, trust and AI replacing jobs. Some stated that they are taking a “wait and see” attitude to AI adoption.

Rather than taking the view that accounting firms are tech-challenged, reactive not proactive, and slow to adopt even the most basic technology (they are), we could view these results a different way. All of those things may be true but what could also be true is that leadership and decision makers at accounting firms are more likely to be truthful when asked how familiar they are with AI. Which is to say, not much. For now.

Meanwhile, KPMG’s recent survey of 220 US-based C-suite and business leaders representing organizations with an annual revenue of $1 billion makes it look like leaders across the business spectrum are jumping all in on generative AI:

  • 97% of leaders are investing in GenAI over the next 12 months, with 43% of leaders saying their organizations plan to invest $100 million or more.
  • 51% of leaders are currently measuring GenAI-related ROI through productivity gains, followed by employee satisfaction (48%) and revenue generated (47%).
  • Many organizations have already or are planning to provide mandatory GenAI skills training for both employees (75%) and leaders (77%) in the next 12 months.
  • 54% of leaders expect new business models to support their growth strategies in the next 12 months, followed by new product and revenue streams (46%), productivity (39%) and profitability (31%).

We buying that? Sounds more like CEOs who don’t want to appear out of touch. Since when is this group broadly eager to jump into brand new tech?

We’ll give accounting firm leaders the benefit of the doubt here and take a guess that they’re open to AI but waiting for the more revolutionary, less cagey industries to adopt it first. Just in case it blows up their businesses or something.

2 thoughts on “Accounting Firms Will Not Be Leading the AI Revolution

  1. Well this was my question and response with ChatGPT-4 yesterday. Just a simple conversion of “$50 million” between English and Chinese, but it mistakenly converted that to $500 million in Chinese. If you were the partner, would you trust GPT to handle more advanced tasks?

    Does 50 million equal to 5億
    ChatGPT
    Yes, 50 million is equal to 5億 in the context of East Asian numbering systems, such as Japanese or Chinese. In these systems, 1億 (pronounced “oku” in Japanese and “yi” in Chinese) equals 100 million, so 5億 equates to 500 million.

    But isn’t 500 million equal to that
    ChatGPT
    You’re right; I apologize for the error in my previous response. In East Asian numbering systems, 1億 (pronounced “oku” in Japanese and “yi” in Chinese) equals 100 million, so 5億 indeed equals 500 million, not 50 million. Thank you for catching that!

    How is 50 million expressed then
    ChatGPT
    In East Asian numbering systems like Japanese or Chinese, 50 million is expressed as “五千万” (read as “go sen man” in Japanese and “wu qian wan” in Chinese). This translates directly to “five thousand ten-thousands,” where “万” (man/wan) equals 10,000. So, 5,000 times 10,000 equals 50 million.

  2. The largest issue with using AI in the accounting industry is the hallucination problem it has. If the AI system doesn’t know the answer it will make stuff up. Digital marketing, generation of text, advertising, yes AI is an excellent resource. But AI cannot perform basic tasks completed by outsourced overseas staffing at this point which makes it less than useful in our industry currently. Want to see the shortcomings of AI, try to look at a general AI construct play chess (not specifically designed for chess) and you’ll see the issues. Often when it’s losing it will simply change the rules in how a piece can move to accomplish its goal.

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