14th June, 2018
When you invite AI into your business, you’re not inviting HAL 9000 to look at your books, but allowing very human processes to come forward.
It explains opportunities and risks to clients’ businesses in plain English, giving accountants and bookkeepers the tools to initiate advisory conversations with their clients.
Busy advisors would know that it’s not always easy to find the time to delve into their clients’ books for opportunities to help them succeed.
Welcome to a new beginning – combining AI and human expert advice!
It’s not handing the keys over to a crazed, sentient computer program but instead a helpful tool in generating insights that may otherwise be missed.
Trevor Harrison, technical director at MRL Group in South Australia, said the use of AI over the course of a six-month trial was surprisingly user-friendly.
“It’s been developed to quickly provide a level of advisory documentation that can be used to start a conversation with the client that requires very little input from the advisor,” he said.
“You can really just jump in and with a few clicks you can generate a report in five minutes. If you want to do more, with feedback and comments, you can do that too.”
While the accountant can still spend time doing a deep-dive into the numbers, MYOB Advisor gives simple insights as jumping-off points for conversations with clients.
MYOB Advisor generates a PDF report of opportunities in the clients’ business, which can be easily sent to clients leaving them with a professional record of the advisory conversation.
“The artificial intelligence adapts to interpret the data and then you still have the ability to customise that data,” said Harrison.
“We may even get the client in on a quarterly basis to run through the report, but I see it much more quickly deployed and used as a conversation piece to help the client.”
So what sort of conversations can AI applications like MYOB Advisor help open?
Jason Seidel from Galpins Accountants, who also took part in the MYOB Advisor trial, said it allowed the firm to be proactive rather than reactive.
“We use MYOB Advisor as a way to stay involved on an ongoing basis – not just reporting at year end,” he said.
“It can help us to keep the conversation going live – as it happens – rather than just reporting back at year end. It turns it into a live analysis rather than a retrospective analysis looking at tax information, for example.”
Seidel said the ability to present stats to clients in a nice, easy-to-understand graphical format meant it was easier to start the conversation.
“Having a huge amount of data is great, but if you can’t put it into a format that’s useful to you or clients, there’s no point in having it,” he said.
“You can see month to month fluctuations in sales easier in a graph than through a bunch of numbers.”
Seidel also saw the potential for an AI program like MYOB Advisor to have greater flow-on effects in the practice.
“It also helps us to create some interest in the staff. Instead of doing monotonous tax returns, for example, it means they’re freed up to use their skills more. It gives them insight into the business,” said Seidel.
“We can use it to empower our staff.
“We can say, ‘here, go and run this report’ and then they learn to pick up issues and bring them to the partners’ attention or to surface them directly with clients. It helps them to be more knowledgeable in the community and to pick up on key trends.”
AI is here – to stay – and it’s nowhere near as menacing as HAL 9000.
Nowadays, AI can be harnessed to add value to a business by providing insight and saving time on repetitive work, leaving the practice with time to do what it does best.
“Anything that saves me time is terrific. I can then spend that hour in the coffee shop with the client talking to them,” said Seidel.
“It frees up the capacity and time spent typing out words and reports and shifts my focus back onto the relationship.”
Ultimately, using AI to support your business-advisory practice isn’t about lines of code – it’s about making business even more human.