Cloud software providers are all racing to take advantage of artificial intelligence for their customers. To help you keep up, we put together a quick recap of how Xero, Intuit and Sage are looking to implement this new technology.
The new battleground
On the whole, the key providers are reflecting the two main focuses of:
- Improving overall accounting efficiency, and
- Increasing the scope for value-add services.
With machine learning playing a critical role in much of the development, the main accounting platforms are looking to enhance the speed and accuracy of the process-driven elements of financial management. The goal is to create speedier and more accurate accounting services, while also freeing up time for practitioners to get their teeth into more customer-focused, value-led advice, guidance and business support.
1. Xero: Smarter coding, happier businesses
Xero has put considerable effort into improving coding, with further development of its automated bank reconciliation processes and ‘Find and code’ function – and that’s lead the company to start developing ways in which AI and machine learning could provide consistent coding of transactions, completely removing the need for corrections and recoding in any form.
It’s this potential for consistency that’s a core driver, as Xero’s Head of Accounting, Paul Bulpitt outlines.
“A lot of the machine learning work that Xero have been doing is already surfacing in the product. So something like the coding of invoices is being made easier. Research has shown that if you give humans a stack of invoices that they’ll code the same transactions to three or four different account codes each time they process them. Conversely, an algorithm that’s applying machine learning won’t do that – it will consistently apply the transaction to the right code each time.”
It’s the potential for accurate, consistent outputs that also make machine learning such a great tool for dealing with the imminent deadline for Making Tax Digital in the UK, as Gary Turner, Xero UK MD recently explained.
“The work we are doing today to bring automation and machine learning to accounting and bookkeeping is not only a desirable extension to Xero. It’s also part of a bigger picture. We believe the work will play an essential role in ensuring HMRC’s Making Tax Digital project doesn’t sink thousands of accountants and bookkeepers.”
2. Intuit: Big tools for small business
Intuit are using their QuickBooks product as a key platform for applying AI and machine learning to reducing the workload for finance teams.
Vice President of Developer Group, Vinay Pai, has highlighted a focus on machine learning, explaining how Intuit is “using machine learning to help identify the types of data, services and tools that a small business needs”. This won’t just benefit business owners, of course, with more accurate, timely bookkeeping providing a better source of data, analysis and insights for QuickBooks accounting partners too.
3. Sage: Betting on bots
Expanding it’s range of cloud products with automation a key function in these solutions, as Jacqueline de Rojas, Managing Director for UK & Ireland outlined at the start of the year. “Our new Sage solutions are built to support the mobile and automated way in which our customers want to run their businesses. They are designed to empower business builders to automate back-office functions, operate with mobility in mind and live in a world where there is virtually no finance admin. Busy business owners want 'invisible accounting'.”
Sage have also managed to be the first provider to get a bot on the market – Pegg. Their commitment to this area is reflected by their hiring of rising tech star Kriti Sharma as VP, Bots and AI at Sage.
All in on AI
Whichever software provider you use, expect artificial intelligence to start popping up more and more as they compete to provide the most effortless experience.
To find out more about how AI will impact the industry, download our free eBook The Accountant's Guide to AI.