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Machine Learning in Accounting

Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over, and soon machines will run the world. Shades of The Terminator? Not! Yes, the use of artificial intelligence is growing exponentially, and machine learning is gaining traction in many professions, including accounting. But robots and computers will not replace number crunchers. Rather, as repetitive tasks shift to machines, new opportunities will open up. Accounting will change, but those changes should not eliminate the need for human accountants. Rather, they will change how accountants contribute.

What Is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence. It uses algorithms and statistical models to perform specific tasks by relying on patterns and inference rather than specific instructions. Machine learning algorithms have a wide range of applications particularly in the performance of difficult tasks when developing conventional algorithms would not be feasible. Machine learning includes the study of data mining and predictive analytics.

Many major companies use machine learning to predict their customers’ preferences. According to IFAC, Netflix uses your ratings of other shows in its libraries — by genre, directors, actors —  to predict if you will like a show. Kindle does the same for books. Amazon uses product views and complementary items to those in your cart to suggest items you may like.

Machine learning opens the door for accountants to spend more time using their expertise to analyze and interpret complex data to provide findings and recommendations to their clients.

How Machine Learning Is Used In Accounting

A Forbes.com article lists several accounting tasks that currently utilize machine learning:

  • Accounts payable/receivables processing. AI-powered invoice systems now streamline invoice processing by learning accounting codes appropriate to each invoice and implementing digital workflows.
  • Supplier onboarding. Machines can vet new suppliers by checking credit scores and tax information. No human involvement is required to get vendors into the system.
  • For most organizations, procurement and purchasing processes require a mountain of paperwork, and they use systems and files that are not compatible. AI systems that integrate and process unstructured data will eventually make the procurement system paperless. And they are good at tracking price changes among many suppliers.
  • Security for audit systems will go up as digitalization keeps a record of file access by various parties. Instead of digging through papers in file cabinets, auditors can use digital files for documentation. A digital audit is more efficient and accurate, and it allows for the use of 100% of a company's financial transactions instead of just a sample.
  • Monthly/quarterly close process. AI can post, consolidate and reconcile data from many sources, faster, allowing organizations more time to strategically think about what to do with their numbers. Not only will the monthly/quarterly close process be faster, it will be more accurate.
  • Expense management. Keeping expenses compliant with an organization's policies is a tedious, time-consuming drain on the accounting team. Machines can read receipts, audit expenses and give alerts when infractions occur.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming accounting and finance by freeing humans to concentrate on the more complex aspects of accounting. This broadens the field for professionals who see the marriage of machine learning and accounting or finance as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and promulgate more efficient and successful businesses. 

Earning an online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from a prestigious school like St. Thomas University can open the door to career advancement, offering the opportunity to learn about the evolution of international accounting principles and practices, along with current developments and their implications.

The MBA program is structured for working professionals with accelerated seven-week courses delivered online. It can be finished in 10 months.

Learn more about St. Thomas University's online MBA program with a concentration in Accounting.


Sources:

IFAC: Why Accountants Must Embrace Machine Learning

Forbes.com: The Digital Transformation of Accounting and Finance – Artificial Intelligence, Robots and Chatbots

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