I stumbled upon a website called “Will Robots Take My Job?” The website sources its data from a 2013 report about the future of employment. Using the website is pretty simple; you enter your job or industry, and you receive an “automation risk level” for how likely your job could be replaced by a robot.
So when I entered “Accountant”, this is the result that came back:
It should be noted that this the first time a job search engine has ever told me that I was “doomed” in my choice of career. Take that, Indeed.com.
As I pondered my impending doom over my afternoon cup of coffee, I searched the web for articles dealing with Accounting & Automation. There are A LOT. And with good reason – with chatbots, cloud-based services, and “machine-learning” software, much of the data entry aspects of accounting can be automated.
I am a huge fan of automation. I also still want to keep my job.
There is compelling evidence that businesses that adapt to changing technologies have a higher success rate. A large portion of my daily work involves beta testing new software and researching ways to automate processes.
But could a robot completely phase me out? That’s a loaded question. Here’s why:
Robots Inform but they Cannot Innovate
One of the advantages of automation is gathering and summarizing a huge amount of data in a short period of time. When you’re trying to build a successful business, information is a valuable asset.
As intuitive as robots are, they only function within the parameters given. As a result, they can be really narrow-minded. Comedic accountant and blogger Greg Kyte said in a recent blog post, “Robots are fantastic at finding solutions, but robots suck at finding the right problem”. You still need humans to interpret the data, identify the problem, then come up with a creative solution to fix it.
Robots Forecast but they are not Visionaries
Several strong reporting tools today not only can analyze data but can also forecast based on certain variables. These can serve a useful purpose. If you create benchmarks, it can be easier to set goals and track if you are achieving them.
However, a robot cannot motivate a group of humans to reach a goal or care about benchmarks. I don’t know about you, but when was the last time you heard IBM Watson give a pep talk?
The core mission of a business is predicated on having the right humans in leadership positions. Businesses do best with leaders that are passionate, adaptive, and are willing to take chances.
Robots don’t take chances. They have that whole self-preservation “thing”.
Humans want to talk to other Humans
Any person that has ever watched a sci-fi movie or read an Issac Asimov novel is familiar with this storyline:
Humans build robot. Robot tries to be human. Humans destroy robot.
The point? People think robots that act like people are creepy. I don’t mind asking my tech-support questions to a chat-bot. I would not take that chat-bot out to a coffee date at Starbucks.
Kevin O’Leary from the investor show Shark Tank made this inciteful comment during at a recent AICPA ENGAGE Conference: “Half the work the CPA does is to deal with people, to have relationships with people, and to decide how to work with their desires, their direction, and their vision for their business. That is never going to be replaced by a machine.”
Humans place more trust in other humans when it comes to advise for their business. Accounting will still involve a level of empathy and trust between individuals. The key for accountants is to leverage this knowledge with their clients. That will help us all to keep our jobs.
There is still a job for me
So will robots take my job? Parts of it maybe; the parts I dislike.
The aspects of the job that I do enjoy: building relationships, working with clients to help them achieve a vision, and helping business owners understand the story behind their numbers; those aspects of my job will stick around.
I don’t want to destroy the robot. I want to make it work for ME.
We love having human connections at Beyond and if you are looking for a human to be on your side as your business grows and develops through the changing times, contact us here.