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Technology Driven Accounting: How to Prepare Staff for a New Age in Accounting

CPA evolution. This is aimed at incorporating changing skills and competencies in the accounting field. As a result, this will include a new curriculum and new CPA exams expected to be launched in 2024.

Despite the disruption in the accounting field by technology, it has introduced many new opportunities. Consider this: while automation takes care of repetitive tasks, the accountant can devote more time to planning, organizing, and advising. This enables the accountant to add more value to an organization as they focus on major tasks.

However, this advantage will benefit only those who are well prepared in advance and ready for the new form that accounting is taking.

How to Prepare Your Staff for a New Age in Accounting

Change is not always welcome, but preparing your staff in advance will help ensure a smooth transition. Here is how to prepare your staff:

  • Communicate
    Let your employees know the intended changes in roles as well as new technologies that you plan to implement. Employees also can play a role in selecting technologies best suited to your business operations.
  • Mindset Shift
    Help employees accept the technological changes. They need to shift their mindset and accept the changing digital landscape. This will help with expediency and the ability to take advantage of its benefits.
  • Upskilling and Reskilling
    Give employees a chance to enhance their abilities. They also should learn new things to ensure they have relevant skills to continue working in advanced areas of accounting that require innovation, critical thinking, decision making, etc. Where necessary, they could learn basic programming and even basic automation for more advanced roles like data analysis. Gaining new skills will help your business transition from old systems to new ones, without necessarily hiring new staff.
  • Soft Skills
    Accountants now more than ever need to learn non-technical skills so that they can easily interact with people. If they are expected to take up advisory roles, they should be good at problem-solving, communication, relationship skills, business acumen, etc.
  • Emerging Business Models
    Let your staff be aware of new business models, such as microservices, marketplace platforms, and do-it-yourself models. This especially affects accounting firms whose employees need to be creative on how to leverage these models.
  • Positive Culture
    Develop a culture that enables staff to compete at a new level to keep their morale up so they are not worried about losing their jobs.
  • Stay Updated
    Keep everyone up-to-date with trends even when you don’t intend to implement every new technology that comes up. It helps to stay in the loop of what’s happening in the accounting field.

Keeping up with evolving accounting trends and changes will save you from losing clients. Preparing your staff for the new age of accounting will help your business provide value beyond traditional accounting to your clients. This is because you will be serving as business consultants and strategic partners as opposed to simply accounting experts.

Audits in Accounting: Improving Audit Quality with Data Analytics

AICPA introduced data standards to be used for data requests and to ensure production of standard reports from the ERP systems.

Another challenge is the integrity of data fed into the analytics systems, as this determines the quality of the end results. Systems used should be designed around collecting meaningful data. Auditors must also ensure that the conclusions fed into the systems are accurate and correct.  

Although data analytics reduces the sampling risk, it introduces the challenge of getting numerous exceptions, mostly referred to as outliers, that produce results outside audit expectations. This calls for auditors to investigate the exceptions/outliers to determine if they are errors or misstatements.

Conclusion

Integrating data analytics into the audit process greatly improves audit quality and credibility. With rapid advancements in technology, the capabilities of data analytics will continue to evolve, making auditing work even more efficient while maintaining high quality.

Although the adoption of data analytics is dependent on the size of a business, availability of skilled staff is also crucial. To remain relevant in a fast-changing environment, auditors need to advance their skills to effectively use the data analytics tools.

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How AI Chatbots are Transforming Businesses

Markets and Markets, the conversational AI market is expected to grow from $4.8 billion in the year 2020 to $13.9 billion by 2025.   

AI Chatbots in Business

AI is no longer reserved for large enterprises only. Small businesses can now leverage conversational chatbots on applications such as Facebook.

The demand for chatbots has been driven by customers who need round-the-clock assistance from businesses. In most cases, businesses are slow to adapt to new technologies – especially because of the related costs. But the many benefits of AI chatbots make it worth adopting. Below are some of the ways that AI chatbots are being used in businesses:

  • Customer inquiries – The bots help reduce customer service workload and can serve customers outside typical working hours. This means there is no need to struggle to manually respond to inquiries as the AI chatbots can be used to automate customer feedback, including in emails. The customers also no longer have to wait a long time to connect with a customer care representative.
  • Personalizing interactions – conversational AI helps personalize interactions relevant to each user. AI chatbots learn the behavior of a client to provide personalized conversations.
  • Data analysis – Businesses have a greater understanding of their clientele once the conversational data is analyzed.
  • Sales representatives – they offer product suggestions for customers who are not sure what they are looking for.
  • Lead qualifying – instant feedback helps keep a prospect interested and eventually turn them into a paying customer.
  • Candidate vetting – Interested applicants converse with the AI chatbot, which then helps to filter for new hires.
  • Free HR staff time – for businesses that have many employees, the conversational chatbots help answer employee questions depending on their job function, geographical location and date. It’s also useful in reminding employees of tasks that need to be completed. This frees time for the HR staff to concentrate on other tasks that help improve job satisfaction and reduce staff turnover.
  • Increased engagement – the ability to answer emails and queries instantly helps keep the customer engaged. This enhances a business brand differentiation.
  • Fast information retrieval – a human can take a long time to retrieve information, especially for an e-commerce or real estate business. AI chatbots easily connect to the database and provide feedback in real-time as they serve as an internal knowledge base.
  •  Integration with other applications – AI chatbots are integrated with robotic process automation, enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management systems to carry out further tasks. Such tasks include booking appointments, filling out forms and making recommendations.
  • Easy scalability – chatbots handle multiple conversations simultaneously. This means that even when a business grows, the bots still handle large volumes of chats without affecting business costs.
  • In digital marketing – businesses are using AI chatbots to support the collection of customer data, new product launches, lead generation, and to increase brand loyalty.

Conclusion

AI technology is continuously progressing and no doubt chatbots will also keep changing.

As with every technology, there are some limitations, such as lack of emotional intelligence that affects the depth and scope of a conversation. This means that there are still complex communications that will require humans.

Nonetheless, having AI chatbots as an additional resource to run a business is a sure way to help boost revenue, improve customer experience, and provide a competitive advantage.

However, before jumping on the bandwagon, it is best to first identify areas in your business where you can deploy AI chatbots.

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Exploring Brain Computer Interface: Tech That Connects to Your Brain

techImagine using your mind to control machines, or your employer reading how you feel in real time from a dashboard? This is the future of BCI technology.

Do we really need this technology? What are the potential benefits and possible implications of this emerging field?

What is BCI?

Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is also referred to as Brain Machine Interface or Neural Interface.

Wikipedia defines BCI as a direct communication pathway between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device.

The brain is said to process billions of bits of information per second and runs on electrical signals that could control electronics, and BCI attempts to create this connection.

The BCI technology that connects internally (invasive BCI) or externally (non-invasive BCI) to the brain is meant to read brain activity and process it to information and even transmit information back to the brain.

Although this research began in the 1970s, the first neuroprosthetic device to be implanted in humans was done in the mid-1990s. Currently, large tech firms and a good number of startups are already working on producing cheaper, safer and more accurate BCIs.

The hype around BCI has been pushed by advanced modern computing, data science, machine learning and neural networks. A combination of the brain and artificial intelligence would surpass human capability.

Applications of BCI

BCI is already used in medicine to measure brain signals for medical applications such as cochlear implants, which are used by individuals with hearing deficits. These implants translate audio signals to electric pulses that are sent directly to the brain.

Other uses in medicine include detection and diagnosis, such as forecasting and detecting abnormal brain structure and other brain disorders such as epilepsy.

According to researchers, BCI could even replace lost functions, such as speaking or moving and general control of the body. This is beneficial to people with different forms of longstanding paralysis, such as that caused by a stroke.

BCI would also help improve quality of life for elderly patients, especially due to changes in memory and brain function as a result of aging. Assistive BCI would help those suffering from motor control impairments to control home appliances in a smart home.

BCI in Business

Although initially meant to help in medical issues, other applications of BCI are emerging. Several companies and startups are exploring application of BCI not related to medicine. These fields include:

  • Marketing – to help measure attention levels of commercial and political ads, with an intention to optimize the ads. Companies will benefit from brain data as it will help increase product or service personalization.
  • Workplace analysis – to help improve performance at work. This is possible using headbands that measure mental fatigue, the cognitive state, stress levels and focus levels. As a result, the work environment would adapt to employee stress levels and thoughts. For drivers operating dangerous machines, BCI will help analyze signals of drowsiness and give an alert or stop the machine to avoid accidents. Employers could use BCI when evaluating, monitoring and even training employees.
  • Education – to help teachers personalize their interaction with students depending on the students’ ability to grasp concepts.
  • Entertainment – BCI offers an immersive experience with the ability to control avatars in video games using thoughts. It would be possible to produce games that respond to the mood of players and their attention level, thus creating a personalized experience.
  • Military – to help in controlling or piloting a swarm of drones.

BCI Challenges

It is reasonable to have technology that improves the quality of lives for people who have disabilities. But when it comes to augmenting functions of a physically fit human, this technology raises ethical concerns and debates.

First, who will own the data produced by our brains? We already have cases of personal data generated on the internet that is being sold. How safe would the data be that is generated by BCI; especially considering that BCI is invasive and involves sensitive personal information such as feelings, moods and emotions.

The thought that a third party can access your personal data without your knowledge brings up questions of privacy. Another person would know exactly how you feel at a given time; and if companies were to roll out the use of BCI, what rights would employees have?

What would happen if the BCI device is hacked? Brain data could be intercepted by hackers who would then know more about you than you’d want to share.

Human augmenting will also give unfair advantage over those who cannot afford BCIs; and at some point the efforts to transcend human limitations could be a disaster.

More potential risks include people being controlled, misuse by rulers, psychological harm, unknown long-term mental effects, and physical harm such as brain damage or hemorrhaging in cases of invasive BCI.

The Future of BCI

The BCI technology offers many benefits. But before actual BCI systems reach the market for consumer application, the risks and unknowns can’t be ignored. This begs for a plan on ethical and policy issues. Business leaders also should start considering a BCI strategy as well as new BCI business models to balance the potential benefits and address the risks.