Take a holistic approach to implementing AI

With up to 85% of UK businesses said to be looking to invest in AI by 2020*, can professional services firms afford not to be in the mix? This is a high statistic and let’s face it there’s going to be plenty of your competitors all set to invest. But, before you spend money, what’s the reality of the AI hype? Here, we provide a few top tips on what you need to be looking at within your firm before taking a knee jerk reaction and implementing inadequate solutions that leave you with data silos, tools not fit for the job and staff who haven’t bought into it.

Getting to grips with the AI hype

We wanted to delve into the hype surrounding AI and how it would affect accountancy practices. So, we took the move to conduct a survey to get the lowdown on future requirements within leading accountancy practices.

In our survey, 58% of respondents felt they have a basic understanding of AI but need more education. Whilst investments in AI are a minor fraction of firms overall spend, there is certainly a rapidly growing enthusiasm and curiosity about the technology, demonstrated by pilot schemes taking place amongst some of the key firms. But, with only 6% of respondents in our survey saying their firms have implemented AI, is the accounting sector lagging behind other businesses in the UK investing in AI by 2020? And, are they set to miss out on the opportunities that AI provides businesses if they aren’t early adopters?

What are the AI opportunities for professional services?

Automation will no doubt free up time by taking on repetitive tasks and allowing employees to focus on value-adding tasks. It allows focusing on building rapport and relationship with your clients. It can link data silos for efficiency within a practice. It’s also about nurturing the skills you have within your firm as there will be implications for employees. Although our survey suggests that AI-driven technology ‘stealing’ people’s jobs is not a fear that our respondents have; as there are soft skills still very much in demand, and these are the skills that can’t be replicated by AI software.

AI is evolving at a rapid pace but whilst some of our respondents are piloting AI, very few have deployed it. It’s worth noting that our experience of technology would suggest that the lead time to go from zero awareness to competence is often longer than the time available to respond to a competitive threat or to meet a market opportunity.

Envision your firm of tomorrow

There’s still time to join the rest of the 85% in businesses looking to invest in AI and grasp the benefits that AI can bring to your practice. But, if you’re still in early stages, we recommend you consider taking a prospect and client lifecycle management (CLM) approach to create a common focus and language within a project team. This is the Envision Methodology and this framework enables your firm to identify areas of focus and priorities which in turn can help define the project scope and subsequent conversations with management boards and the wider company.

We run Envision workshops with legal and accounting firms to help project teams form a common vision to help them communicate with commonality, clarity and context. This allows the project team to identify ‘Why’ the initiative to change exists and what the prime project goals and priorities are. The outputs of the Envision Methodology session that we run allows practices to:

  • Build consensus and achieve buy-in for selecting and implementing a suite of business-critical technologies.
  • Understand the blind spots with existing platforms.
  • Gain clarity and design strategies to facilitate the success of a project.
  • Increase firm-wide collaboration and value resulting in your entire firm focusing on the right objectives at the right time.

The Envision Methodology is not just about helping with implementing AI technology in your firm it’s about taking a holistic approach. Moving from the old, familiar, and often unsuccessful model to a new, insightful, driver-focused standard. This involves the balance between the strategic, operational, technology and process dimensions within a firm. The process helps firms understand the restraining forces that may exist in a firm to give a clear vision of why change initiatives need to happen.

Download our AI and the Future of Accountancy report here.

*Source: The Drum


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