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Voice technology will benefit accountants who leverage it correctly, says AI expert

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 by Gary Hunt

The accounting profession isn’t immune to the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) and the developments that come with it, such as voice technology. Recently a tech firm in the UK was given the approval to use Amazon’s Alexa voice technology for artificial intelligence in accounting apps.

Joe Woodard, CEO of Woodard Companies, said using voice technology for accounting is essentially a different way to input the same information you always have. Still, this development will only further cement how business owners can benefit from AI.

Joe Woodard“It’s basically Siri for business on steroids,” Woodard said.

He said most AI voice technology is conversational, allowing you to do things such as ask about the weather, get directions to the nearest restaurant or find the date of an historic event. But for business, voice technology in accounting applications means two systems will communicate and work together to complete tasks.

For example, you’ll tell Siri to make a transaction; Siri will then complete the transaction, record it and then it will appear in the general ledger of a separate application.

“So we always have had the ability to record a transaction, and we always have Siri who did our Apple commands or Android commands,” he said. “Now those two solutions simply talk to the other product.

“This has made it newsworthy,” he said. It now seems like “something that makes the everyday business person feel like they can pull this off.”

Sage became the first in the AI market for accounting in July 2016 when it announced the launch of their smart assistant, Pegg, which performs tasks through messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Slack. Sage’s news release said it is “as simple as writing a text.”

But Woodard said he doesn’t foresee most accountants using voice commands regularly to do bookkeeping for clients. The nature of sitting at a desk with a computer means you would probably just log a transaction yourself instead of using your voice to announce it to the machine and, consequently, everyone around you.

Woodard said he hoped by the end of year every major voice interactive technology communicates with hundreds, if not thousands, of third-party apps. Along with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, he also mentioned Ok Google and Microsoft’s Cortana as AI tech to watch.

Despite these exciting advancements in AI, Woodard said there is no reason for CPAs to be alarmed about robots dominating the profession. A writer on AccountingWeb stated, “more important than what is lost by automation is to recognize that automation raises the value of the tasks that workers uniquely supply.”

“Technology has no face, no empathy, has no relationship,” Woodard said. “and accountants have strong, trust-based relationships for their clients.”

Empowering clients to use such technology is a key to continuing to prove your value and maintain strong client relationships.

“That’s the best response to the technology,” Woodard said. “Learn it and educate your clients on it so they can use it in increasing measure.”

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