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New Tech for Accounting Firms Get Spotlight at 2024 Conferences

Solving client issues by leveraging your team member’s expertise is one of the best ways to have a rewarding career and life.

As the spring conference season has begun, connecting with long-term friends and making new acquaintances at the G400, BDO, and other events has been good. As of this writing, I’m particularly anticipating the CPA Practice Advisor Mashup event at AICPA Engage, where I’ll present a version of Tech Update, which is the motivation for this column. Perhaps watching the aurora borealis and other circumstances of this year has made me reflective, but I suspect it is the anticipation of what is new.

Technology continues to march on, and hardware and software are making progress. However, how people embrace, resist, or put up with changes is always fascinating. Throughout my career, including this year, I’ve helped hardware and software companies with their ideas, designs, and strategies to bring many new products to market. While operating under NDA, I couldn’t discuss many of those innovations, even with my wife or trusted colleagues. When I was inducted into my high school hall of fame, I wrote a background piece on some of my accomplishments. My wife, whom I dated in high school and married while we were going to college, reviewed those items and frequently commented, “You did that?” Yes, since it was under NDA, I couldn’t tell you, but those NDAs are now expired so that others can know.

I still operate under various NDAs, which I’ll never violate, but as I look ahead to new products you’ll see announced this year and early next year, I’ll note that you should hold onto your hat and hang on. Notable changes are coming in applications that directly affect you and your clients.

So, What New Technologies Should We Anticipate?

First, there is new tech you can apply to your business and personal life this year. Among those are portals, document extraction improvements, and artificial intelligence-enabled solutions. By my count, there are 30+ new tools for the accounting profession alone. Co-host Brian Tankersley and I try to cover interesting developments weekly in The Accounting Technology Lab Podcast.

However, take a moment and consider the following technologies that will likely become significant during the next five years. Each of these will provide productivity improvements that will help us overcome some of our labor and talent shortages.

  • Neural Processing Units (NPUs) – NPUs are available in the new Intel Core Ultra Processors Family, AMD XDNA Architecture, Qualcomm Hexagon NPU Snapdragon X Elite, and the Apple M4 computer chips. Starting with this column, I recommend purchasing ONLY desktops and laptops with NPUs. Recommending NPU purchases is like my pronouncement in 2016 that you should always purchase dedicated Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). Buying dedicated GPUs can now optionally stop since integrated GPUs finally have the power of dedicated GPUs. Additionally, all our common smartphones have NPUs, too. Why purchase and use NPUs? If available, artificial intelligence software will take advantage of this processing power locally, accelerating and improving AI results. Local or distributed processing on our computers and phones is needed to support cloud computing capabilities.
  • Automation and Artificial Intelligence – Automation shows promise in the form of Robotic Process Automation, such as Power Automate, UiPath, or Automation Anywhere or with bots. But so do AI-enabled products. Automation and AI are different, as noted in the table below. We anticipate automation and AI to both improve and produce more effective results over the next three to four years. We’ll see applicable AI in Tax, Audit, and Client Accounting Services this year and next.
 Artificial IntelligenceAutomation
Decision MakingAI decides based on the learning from experience & information it receivesAutomation is like preset and self-running to perform specific tasks
PurposeAI is a system that helps experts analyze situations and arrive at a particular conclusionAutomation is a kind of machine programmed to carry out a routine job
RepetitionAI is for non-repetitive tasks. Each task is separate and distinct from the other tasks.Automation is for repetitive tasks based on commands and rules
Learning and ChangingAI involves learning and evolvingAutomation does not involve learning and evolving
Interaction with HumansAI interacts with humans, and it learns from experience, compares situations, and then works according to itAutomation can have no interaction with humans. It typically works on instructions
  • Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics – Predictive analytics is an advanced form of data analytics that attempts to answer the question, “What might happen next?” Prescriptive Analytics suggests a course of action. Predictive and prescriptive analytics are improving because of AI. As we have moved from Descriptive Analytics to Diagnostic Analytics to Predictive Analytics to Prescriptive Analytics, we can develop insights using historical data and apply AI-enabled tools, such as 4ImpactData, which enable advisory services to smaller businesses supported by your CAS practices.
  • Quantum computing – The new generation of computing is anticipated to arrive by 2030. Over 20 companies are developing and delivering products in this category today. Many technical challenges have been addressed, and the companies are now looking to scale. The ability to run AI models and other applications at much greater speeds will leverage speed-constrained applications today.

The delivery of completed, working products will soon impact accounting and public practice firms. We’ll see many of these announcements in the summer and fall.

So, What Are We To Do?

  1. Change your computer and phone purchasing strategy now to build for the future.
  2. Begin pilot projects using Automation and AI.
  3. Look for opportunities to use data analytics to model data. Perhaps 4ImpactData, Power BI, or similar tools can help today.
  4. Watch this space for opportunities to apply quantum computing to accounting.

Further, brush up your skills in change management and project management. We are entering a period of nearly continuous change. We don’t want to adopt the latest “new” thing because it has been introduced, but because it solves a problem for our clients or us. And we don’t want to complicate anyone’s business or life unnecessarily. Leveraging technology to make life easier is still one of my priorities for you.

In the meantime, we will look for tactical solutions to your current problems. Solving client issues by leveraging your team member’s expertise is one of the best ways to have a rewarding career and life.