Will Automation replace bookkeepers?

We now live in a world where we can talk to our smartphones, get to wherever we need to be with satellite navigation and ask our homes to turn the lights on when we return from work. It’s all rather ‘Star Trek’, but the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) has heralded an exciting new dawn for technology.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in business, where the most basic form of AI – automation – has made its presence felt for quite some time. We can send automated emails to new customers, invoice instantly and leave it to software to send payment reminders.

But how does this affect accountancy? Will automation replace bookkeepers? We don’t think so. Here’s 3 reasons why:

1. Bookkeeping is already automated
It should be noted that much of the work involved in bookkeeping is already automated. Invoices and remittance are often processed by software, but that same software is incapable of scepticism; it is a bookkeeper’s job to verify that automated figures are telling the full story.

2. Reviewing transactions demands experience
Business transactions fall into many categories and they often need to be reviewed in order to ensure they comply with industry guidelines or best practices. Computers are incapable of doing so, which is why a good bookkeeper will beat automation hands down when it comes to reviewing financial transactions within a business.

3. Software breaks
Every bookkeeper will tell you they occasionally have an off day (we all do) but they don’t suffer from bugs that result in incorrect numbers being submitted to HMRC. If you automate too much of your bookkeeping, you run the very real risk of one of the most important aspects of your business being incorrectly accounted for. Software is rarely perfect; would you want to put all of your trust into a computer program when it comes to your finances?

The ability to automate regular, mundane business tasks is no bad thing at all – it makes our lives easier and enables us to focus on being productive in other areas. However, when it comes to numbers, there is nothing quite like the human touch.

For all its percentages and calculations, accountancy is still a skill that requires creative thinking and the ability to call on experience in order to solve problems. With that in mind, we think it’ll be some time before automation completely replaces bookkeepers.

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