Webinar: Automating Your Team’s Most Tedious Work With AI
Jun 03, 2019 | By John Siegel
Technology has drastically changed the way companies operate, but with the business landscape becoming more and more competitive by the day, staying ahead of the curve is increasingly harder for organizations to do.
FloQast was designed to streamline the vital month-end close process to help accountants operate more efficiently, helping their organizations close the books faster and more accurately. Earlier this year, we took that a step further when we introduced FloQast Matching, a module powered by artificial intelligence that drastically simplifies the notoriously tedious process of manually reconciling transactions for high volume accounts.
Even as AI becomes more commonplace, many are still unclear how the technology will impact their jobs. To understand how the use of AI will affect accounting teams in the near future, FloQast’s Director of Product Marketing Blake Oliver and Product Manager Erika Heckscher recently hosted a webinar designed to showcase the power of FloQast Matching and to explain how artificial intelligence — as well as machine learning — will positively impact the lives of accountants in the not-so-distant future.
The Power of Machine Learning
FloQast Matching utilizes artificial intelligence to speed up reconciliations, and the product team is working on adding machine learning capabilities (a type of AI) to enhance the product even further. To illustrate how Machine Learning operates, Blake took a look at a few examples from our daily lives.
“Machine Learning means algorithms and statistical models that computer systems use to effectively perform a specific task without using explicit instructions, relying instead on patterns and inference instead,” said Blake. “This is powerful because it means you're feeding an AI a database of information, and as you give it more information, it gets better at performing a particular task. As we'll see, it could be reconciling general ledger transactions to an outside source, it could be suggesting movies to watch on Netflix based on your prior viewing history, or it could be Amazon suggesting what to buy based on your purchasing patterns.”
By thoroughly analyzing the information it’s being fed, machine learning offers the ability to see patterns humans can’t, because of the sheer volume of data.
“You feed that AI information, it analyzes it across millions of people and discovers patterns. That's how Netflix knows to recommend new shows to you based off what you indicated you enjoyed previously. Or, it's how auditors are detecting anomalies in general ledger data without having to actually sample anymore.”
Helping or Hurting?
If the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence sounds to you like the robots are coming to take jobs away from humans, you’re not alone. The majority of respondents to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reported that robots and computers will one day automate many jobs currently done by humans, but not all of them.
We might be underestimating the impact of AI, but we also shouldn’t freak out. According to a study conducted by McKinsey, demonstrated technologies can fully automate 42 percent of financial activities, and mostly automate a further 19 percent. That may sound scary, but what it really means is that much of what’s actually being automated are the tedious tasks that often necessitate accountants to work excessive hours. We’ll still need accountants to manage the algorithms, often referred to as “bots.”
“At the end of Q4, accountants and auditors had an unemployment rate of 1.6 percent,” noted Blake. “There just aren't enough people who went into accounting over the last 20 years to replace everyone retiring. That's good news, because we are going to leverage AI and automation to do work that previously we would have delegated. The people who learn how to use this software can then go create value in the broader organization. Especially when it comes to robotic process automation, the accounting department could actually become consultants to HR, to legal, to operations. In terms of figuring out how to automate, we're in a perfect position to do that.”
What FloQast Matching Means for Accountants
Accountants responsible for manually-reconciling transactions each month are accustomed to the laborious process. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, FloQast Matching is designed to free accountants — not replace them — to work on projects that provide more value for the organization.
“We’re great fans of Excel here — I use Excel every day, but it’s just not great for matching transactions,” said Erika. “The matching process can be very tedious and mind numbing for accountants. If you think about the cost of your staff’s time and the impact on their work experience consistently having to spend days out of each month manually matching transactions, you would be surprised at how negative the process can be.”
Having worked closely with early FloQast Matching users, Erika — who, as a former CPA, experienced the challenges of manually reconciling transactions — has seen the difference Matching makes for accounting teams each month.
“We have clients who've said they can do in an hour what used to take them three days,” said Erika. “If you look at those kinds of time savings — about what your current process takes you versus what it will take your using FloQast, I think that this will definitely be worth it for you.”