November 17, 2023

The AI Revolution

The AI Revolution

Airbnb just bought an AI startup, GamePlanner.AI, co-founded by Adam Cheyer, a co-founder of Siri. It’s the latest example of how AI is starting to permeate the business world—a trend showing no signs of slowing down.

In just the last week, Forward Health has launched CarePods, self-serve doctor’s offices powered by AI, Microsoft announced it is rolling out its own chips for AI to keep costs down, and even the Department of State has revealed its first artificial intelligence strategy on how to use the technology responsibly.

I don’t think AI is just a fad. As regular readers of this column know, I’m a technology buff, and I’m very impressed by how the tools I’ve seen can bring enhanced productivity and efficiencies to just about every field. And I’m not the only one on our team sounding the rallying cry for embracing technology. Our Chief Information & Digital Officer, Peter Scavuzzo, just won a New York Orbie Award, a prestigious honor for CIOs given by New York CIO. Peter is also championing Marcum’s adoption of AI, where appropriate.

Although there are real risks that come with a powerful tool like AI, and it has to be used responsibly, there are also many benefits. One is freeing humans to do the highest-level work they are capable of, so they don’t spend half the day on manual tasks. In today’s business environment, even the most productive professionals have a backlog of work. And thanks to the labor shortage affecting many industries, that’s not going to change any time soon. AI will be invaluable in filling in the gaps.

With every major new technology that has come on the scene since I started my career, there have been naysayers who believed it would put many people out of work. That’s true with AI, too. But when I look back, there haven’t been many sought-after jobs that robots have taken. It’s usually been the positions and roles that are hard to fill because people don’t like doing them.

That’s certainly true in accounting. Although we now use technology such as robotic process automation, AI will never eliminate the need for accountants. That’s because we are not just number crunchers at Marcum. There are simply too many moving parts and nuances to our clients’ operations for a robot to provide meaningful advice that considers the constantly changing contexts in which our clients do business. I see AI becoming a valuable tool to help us do some of the more process-oriented work on our plates faster and more efficiently, so we have more time to sit down with our clients, meet with them at conferences, and otherwise deepen the human connections that are the foundation of a relationship business like accounting.

The future of our profession won’t be about robots, though they may be humming in the background. It will be about doubling down on what only human beings can do. AI is probably already better at adding up columns of numbers than people are, but it will never be able to develop the soft skills that drive the business world, whether that means leadership, courage, or empathy.

Next week is Thanksgiving. Marcum’s offices will be closed on Wednesday for our annual Day of Service, where the entire Marcum team spends the day doing volunteer work. And we will be closed Thursday & Friday as well to celebrate Thanksgiving. I hope you all get to spend the holiday weekend surrounded by those you love.