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Firm Management

Debunking the Myths Can Help Firms Start Implementing AI

According to a recent AICPA survey, only a very small percentage of accounting firms have truly implemented AI in a meaningful way in their day-to-day workflows.

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By Shane Westra.

Over the past several years, artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are becoming increasingly integrated into the daily operations of accounting firms. This change offers both challenges and opportunities, which is an important perspective to maintain as you navigate the adoption of AI in your practice with an eye on maintaining high levels of overall security.

According to a recent AICPA survey, only a very small percentage of accounting firms have truly implemented AI in a meaningful way in their day-to-day workflows. Why is this? From most reports, it is a multi-pronged answer with two main drivers:

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  1. Lack of true direction or knowledge about how to plan for a future firm that optimizes AI usage to fully maximize operations; and,
  2. Hesitation about implementing AI tools based on the fear of the “unknown.”

The reality is that both of these drivers of current accounting firm behavior are valid, but they are not necessarily truths from which the next year or ten years of your firm’s existence should be based. In fact, because the rate of adoption of AI is still extremely low in the accounting profession, there is a vast opportunity for firms of all sizes and with diverse business models to be on the forefront of the AI transition across the industry and gain significant momentum with a “first mover” competitive advantage, if AI is approached the right way.

Part of this approach should be to become well-versed in what the technology can and cannot do. It is also important to be aware of how the specific technologies your firm is using are leveraging AI and how it can benefit you. Along with obtaining this information bunking some of the myths which may prevent you from embracing AI fully in your firm.

Eliminate myths about AI “bad actors” to empower your firm’s growth.

One of the pervasive myths circling around AI in general is that the technology itself is inherently nefarious. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is the specific application of AI that determines how secure and how useful its application is. It is important to understand how the current reality and future advancements of AI in the tax and accounting sector may impact your firm both positively and negatively. Yet, the benefits of technologies that are specific to accounting with AI built-in are in fact, much safer and easy to implement than those such as Chat GPT which has free-ranging capabilities and may put the data used in prompts and commands into the public domain.

Applications such as Canopy’s own Insights analysis module does not indiscriminately access any data or deploy it independently. In most cases the tools in the application are actually trained by you or your team as they assist more and more thoroughly with the tasks that they have been assigned.

For example, the Insights tool within Canopy can generate reports from requests typed in plain English, such as “Show me my 20 least profitable clients”, or “What tasks are assigned to Mary right now?” When the results are presented, feedback is solicited to improve the quality of the output, improving every subsequent use of the tool.

The exciting benefits above are significant in advancing your firm’s practice management. However, we do also need to be clear that for optimum security, you must be intentional about establishing clear data sharing protocols, implement strict access controls, and encrypt data in transit to help protect your client’s information. Any agreement you have with third parties should also include specific language related to data confidentiality as well as requirements for security audits and reporting.

The use ofAI tools is becoming more prevalent in accounting solutions. Once you understand its power in helping you to organize and sort data and to improve its efficiency and capabilities over time, it will be easier to see the positive side of AI for your firm. Of course, having a clear vision of the responsibilities of each member of your team (internal and external parties) for overseeing AI adoption and usage as well as the processes for monitoring and assessing the risks associated with it is critical.

Eliminating the fear factor of AI starts with a reality-based risk-benefit analysis.

AI is here to stay in the accounting profession, which means firm leaders must remain adaptable and proactive in balancing the benefits and the risks of the technology within the context of its real capabilities and downsides. Doing so will allow your firm to take advantage of the new opportunities that AI-driven accounting technologies can offer to your firm now and in the years to come.


Shane Westra has 20+ years of experience leading Product and R&D teams for high-profile SaaS companies such as LexisNexis, Pearson, Workfront (now part of Adobe), Shutterstock (Bynder), and nCino (SimpleNexus). Whether in Salt Lake City or Silicon Valley, Shane has consistently helped both growth-stage and mature companies define their strategic vision, build innovative products and platforms, and level-up industries with modern tools.