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AI and Big Data – three years in the evolution of accounting Posted on Oct 13 - 2017

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For three years, I’ve assisted the American Accounting Association in the development of their Accounting IS Big Data show. It’s been fascinating to watch accounting professionals and academics change their perspective as the evolution of accounting as new technologies come into view. It’s a process of that follows the classic denial, resist and acceptance pattern we see in technology adoption. Here’s a recap of what’s happened.

Year 1 (Denial)

Attendees at the inaugural show, were in for a shock. It appeared that an entire show’s worth of attendees poured into the first day’s sessions with a pronounced denial mindset. It was something a Missourian (i.e., the Show Me state) would appreciate: few attendees thought anyone was using Big Data for anything accounting related.  It was great to see that mindset get changed as they started to recognize that the evolution of accounting was underway right under their noses.

By lunchtime, these folks went from denial to oh-wow acceptance of the de facto reality. In that event, they heard from an Atlanta firm that uses massive amounts of corporate credit card information, travel and expense reports and other big data stores to detect T&E fraud. Note: did you know that 82% of fraudulent T&E activities are committed by 5% of employees?

In a large case study exercise, attendees saw how big data was impacting most every business process within a business starting with order-to-cash. Some teams saw how hotels and restaurants that manage their Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. reviews and rankings could see an 8% improvement in their top-line revenue. Some teams learned how Big Data could be used to create better sales forecasts than those developed by the Chief Revenue/Operating Officer – even when that executive has great SFA and CRM data. In fact, dozens of tables of attendees each learned fascinating business uses of Big Data that all had an impact on most every line of the P&L statement. At this stage, attendees recognized that Big Data was already impacting finance and accounting by virtue of the impact on the businesses to which they report and advise.

Year 2 (Resist)

The next year saw another shift in mindsets. That year saw a generation gap emerge within the audience and the show content continued to point out more uses and risks associated with the growing confluence of Big Data and accounting. View More

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