We recently held the webinar “The Future of Outsourced Accounting and Accounting Technology.” This virtual session helped us understand more about how accounting and bookkeeping firms use practical technologies, like automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML), to future-proof their practices.
We were able to survey a wide variety of attendees on automated accounts payable challenges that arise from their firm’s degree of tech-savviness.
While accountants made it clear that they have some concerns around the deployment of solutions like AI, most were feeling the heat from competitive firms and were planning on introducing AI within the next year to ensure the survival of their business.
How can you avoid leaving opportunities on the table? Read through the results of our poll to learn what your accounting technologist peers said are their top priorities.
Who Are Our Participants?
It’s helpful to first understand who made up our poll respondents. Eighty percent of our participants are from firms that offer outsourced accounts payable services.
Of those companies, 80% additionally have over 25% of their revenue coming directly from outsourced accounting services.
Knowing this, it’s clear that there is a major need amongst survey respondents to automate their entire AP workflow. The future of outsourced accounting is figuring out how you can provide more efficient services for clients who don’t have robust bookkeeping capabilities in house.
The majority of participants have either 1-10 clients or 51-200 outsourced accounting clients, and typically process up to 1,000 invoices/month.
In determining how many clients you need to develop your tech stack around, the client and invoice volume should dictate your firm’s response. Those responsible for more accounts payable processing will see added value from deploying certain technologies, like AI.
The State of Automated Accounts Payable Today
Based on our previous report on the State of Client Accounting Services and Outsourced Accounting, before our virtual event we had already gotten a sneak peek of the automated accounts payable landscape, with 38% of firms telling us that they currently use AI-based automation.
Most webinar respondents, perhaps inspired by recent COVID-19 events, understand that now is not the time to dismiss investments in competitive technology; 66% were planning to add AI to their tech stack within the next year.
The majority of polling respondents are already automating their workflows in some capacity, so the commitment towards faster, more efficient services with better margins is starting to become a reality for many accounting firms.
While accounting firms expressed an increasing interest in using AI to streamline and speed up their workflows, hesitations about AI remained.
While CPAs have come to understand that AI will not be responsible for office disruptions like a decline in staffing, the primary concern about AI was its ability to seamlessly integrate with other accounting software. Cost and even time to learn the technology ran a very distant second and third place, meaning that accounting firms have to take the time to invest in accounts payable technology that can play nice with their existing tech stack.
Looking Over Your Shoulder
Cloud-based accounting is table stakes and no longer enough to differentiate your accounting firm in the marketplace. Today, firms tell us that they are competing not just with aggressive, venture-backed accounting firms that use AI, but also ERP systems with built-in AI. More than 70% indicated that they are looking over their shoulder at the shiny new companies pushing their way to the forefront of client accounting services and outsourced accounting firms.
So how are you justifying what you do?
What Can Accounting Firms Do to Stay Ahead of the AI Curve?
With so much of an accounting firm’s revenue riding on outsourced accounting and new tech-savvy competitors in their rearview, accountants have to make the change from CPAs to technologists quicker than they perhaps assumed.
To expand their service offerings and become more customer-centric, accounting firms will need to get on board with automation and expand AI access throughout the larger organization. Only when employees can more efficiently process a high volume of invoices per month can they engage one on one with their clients.
With Vic.ai’s automated accounts payable AI technology that layers over accounting firms’ most commonly-used technologies like Bill.com and QuickBooks Online, companies can develop additional capabilities to defend their core business. This gives CPAs the superpower to spend more time advising their clients.
How is your accounting firm using AI today? Tell us in the comments.
And if you’d like to learn how to position your accounting firm in a changing technology landscape, watch our webinar “The Future of Outsourced Accounting and Accounting Technology."