Will 4IR technologies kill the Accounting Profession? "Only if accountants remain the same and refuse to embrace it," says Arthur Goldstruck, CEO at World Wide Worx.
Mr Goldstruck was speaking from the South African Institute of Professional Accountants' (SAIPA) Accounting iNdaba 2019, being held from 13th to 15th August at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. This inaugural event explores 4IR and its impact on the Accounting Profession under the theme: "The Future-Ready Professional Accountant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution".
According to Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa 2019: Enterprise uptake and expectations for emerging technologies, based on research carried out by World Wide Worx, South African adoption of 4IR technologies is low. “Only 13% of corporate South Africa is currently using AI in 2019, exactly the same as the previous year. Of the rest, 21% plan to adopt the technology in the next 12 to 24 months,” says Goldstruck.
This is in contrast to a survey conducted by the firm in 2018 in which 63% of non-users indicated they would invest in AI. 43% of those cited cost as the main constraint for not doing so.
Goldstruck says the reason for the large decline is that organisations, having moved past the hype around artificial intelligence, have come to realise that AI projects are costly. "The software itself is cheap and readily available as online services," he says. Rather, it is the skills and expertise required to make it work that are lacking, with that scarcity driving expenses up.
With regards to other 4IR technologies, 50% of companies currently use basic automation, 25% use IoT and 19% use Cloud computing.
However, 90% say they believe they will become reliant on those technologies in the future, and 99% expect that using them will result in a measurable increase in efficiency.
Delay in Cloud adoption
As cloud computing becomes an everyday part of our lives, World Wide Worx also asked companies what obstacles they faced in moving their business online.
The top reasons were poor connectivity and that it was too complicated. However, Goldstruck's firm found that as connectivity improved, the perceived complexity reduced noticeably.
When it comes to financials, 55% of companies continue to use a desktop accounting package while 22% have migrated to Cloud-based accounting software.
Conversely, robotic process automation (RPA), a technology that allows repetitive data entry tasks to be automated through programmable software robots, has become increasingly cheaper and readily available.
"A year ago, only 6% of South African enterprises were using robotics. Then came the RPA explosion. Now the figure stands at 37%,” writes Goldstruck in the report.
RPA can be used to automate many of the bookkeeping and data input duties currently performed by accountants. Although this creates a risk to the Accounting Professional, the opportunities introduced by the technology are more appealing.
Goldstruck concluded his presentation by assuring Professional Accountants that 4IR technologies are not the enemy. They should rather embrace these advances in information and transaction processing to create a measurable competitive advantage for their employers or clients, and their practice.
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