Artificial intelligence and accounting robotics (“bots”) are a hot topic in our accounting profession with some people even saying that these pose a threat to accountants and auditors. Both of these technologies will actually help enhance the services that our profession can provide and enable us to focus on delivering insights and strategic advice to our clients and coworkers.
Our chapter is leading Houston’s involvement in the TrueUp Bot Challenge to help our members and students gain hands-on experience in building bots and seeing what bots can do. Students can participate in the challenge and professionals can help judge the competition (and gain insights to students on the leading edge).
What are bots and ChatBots?
Software robots or “Bots” are gaining traction in business as a way to automate structured manual tasks where a software or data integration is not available. A simple example could be that when a vendor bill is recorded in the accounts payable module of a general ledger, that the bot goes an looks up a purchase order in a procurement system and then goes and checks the receiving log in the warehouse system and performs the initial three-way match between these documents (assuming the three systems are not integrated). If it is able to successfully perform the three-way match it marks the bill approved, allowing it to continue on to be paid.
If it finds a discrepancy, it informs the accounts payable clerk or appropriate department manager to review the discrepancy. Another example is that a bot could monitor the accounts receivable aging schedule and when a customer has invoices that go over 30 days past due, it initiates an email to the customer reminding them of the past due amount and providing them with copies of the past due invoices. Responses from the customer go to a collections inbox where an AR clerk or collections specialist finishes the follow-up. If the customer doesn’t respond, the bot may send reminders at 60 days, and then flag the invoice for submission to collections at 90 days. Both of these are examples of “back end” bots, or bots that help automate internal processes.
By contrast there are “ChatBots”, software robots that are able to respond to natural language requests to provide information or perform an action. These may be behind the little chat bubble you often see on websites now, respond to social media posts or even respond to emails. An example of this is sending an email that asks, “How much do we owe Vendor ABC?” and having the bot go lookup the amount showing as outstanding in accounts payable sub-ledger and respond with the result: “Vendor ABC has three outstanding bills totaling $1,240”. It may also do this in a customer-facing scenario where it can be programmed to respond to common customer requests and then if there is something that it can’t understand it then switches over to a customer service representative.
Build a bot competition for students
Our chapter is pleased to be the first accounting association to partner with TrueUp in coordinating a Houston event to complement TrueUp’s national Bot competition. Our Student Auxiliary will be helping to recruit student competitors to builds bots and presenting a local award for a winner(s) from our Houston area. If you know a student that may be interested in participating, please send them to our Houston Bot Challenge page. If you have some expertise in this area and are interested in helping to coach student teams, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professionals can learn and get insights into leading edge students
Judging for the event will be coordinated at a national level by TrueUp, and Houston accounting firms can participate as judges to both learn about bots and evaluate the bots created by the students. Education will be provided to professionals on what bots are and how they are created, then professionals will be asked to help judge the bots that were created by students. Preference will be given to Houston professionals to judge Houston student competitors so that firms can identify potential internship or staff candidate who have technical acumen and innovative approaches to the accounting field. Judging will occur in May 2019. If you would like more information on judging, please see Houston Bot Challenge page. We also have sponsorship opportunities available for firms that would like to help recognize the winning Houston teams. If you are interested in sponsoring a Bot Challenge award, please contact us at email@example.com.
Interested in other innovations?
I’m really excited to see this unique opportunity to educate both students and professionals on bots, as well as bring them together through the competition judging process. I’ve previously shared information about our innovations for members in industry and our CPE programs. If you have an idea for how we could improve our programs or introduce new programs, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an article from TXCPA Houston's Online Magazine called the Forum. Read the full magazine here.
About the author:
Donny C. Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA is the Director of Innovation at Houston CPA Society.