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Technology and the changing role of the accountant

Technology impacts nearly every aspect of our lives and accounting is no different.

The industry is undergoing seismic change and once abstract concepts like 'cloud accounting' are now the norm rather than a niche. This is a good thing. It means that, as an industry, we can work smarter and focus our collective products and services at the most important stuff. Helping businesses deliver better business outcomes.

Last year we welcomed Hubdoc , a document collection and automation tool. This year we launched Xero Tax (formerly Instafile), delivering accounts production and annual tax directly out of Xero.

And thanks to all the benefits of having a connected platform, we’re now Making Tax Digital-ready with HMRC. And not just ready, we're using this new connectivity to build a host of new functionalities to make managing sales tax easier. But we’re only just getting started. Here’s what technology means for the future of accountants.

Automated coding

Automated, code-free accounting is replacing much of the time-consuming tasks of the profession: bridging the gap between digital demand and analogue supply.

In 2017, we launched our automated coding system for invoices and bills, leveraging a database of 189 million transactions. We’re really proud of it, but we’re certainly not alone in this area. AI and automation-based innovations exist in many other industries. Perhaps the most interesting trend emerging is how AI is being applied. Rather than pushing people to adopt new digital products, the technology is now adapting to people and their inherently analogue problems.

A great example of this is Google Duplex, which was unveiled at Google’s I/O developers conference in May 2018 last year. The Google Duplex ‘bot’ is an AI-based (but human sounding) assistant. In the video shown at the event, it books an appointment at a hair salon with a hairdresser, without the salon ever knowing that they’re engaging with a machine. Put simply, the lack of an online booking system is compensated by Google’s heavy lifting.

This mentality is what attracted us to the idea of welcoming Hubdoc into the family. Similar to EDI and Google Duplex, Hubdoc’s digital technology adapts to the analogue world by auto-fetching documents and extracting data from receipts. This has enabled us to take on the burden of converting the analogue world to the digital.

Technology is changing the role of the accountant

The first wave of cloud and automation is having a profound effect on businesses by enabling them to do less bookkeeping and to focus on what they love. And leave the accounting to the accountants.

Technology can take on the more repetitive and time-consuming tasks that accountants still have to do manually. This is likely to change the working patterns of accountants, but only for the better. Soon, they’ll have more time to tuck into the advisory part of their job: providing strategic advice to their clients to help their businesses grow.

Practice 2019

What’s next at Xero

Accountants are the number one most trusted business advisors – and businesses grow faster with an accountant by their side.

Our mission at Xero is to rewire the world of small business, making it seamless, simpler and smarter. I’m excited about the role accountants will play in helping make that a reality and the positive impact this will have on the UK economy and the people in it. 

Damon Anderson, Director of Partner & Product at Xero.

Xero will be supporting this year’s ICAEW Practice 2019 Conference. Visit icaew.com/Practice2019 for more information.

Practice 2019