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Two Experienced CPAs Advise Firms to Ease into AI Adoption

Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Apr 23, 2024

Two accomplished CPAs, writing in CPA Practice Advisor, urged small to midsize firms to be cautious and strategic when adopting artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Chris Stephenson, managing director of AI at alliantgroup, and Eric Hylton, alliantgroup’s national director of compliance, offered “a few principles that every CPA firm can leverage to successfully compete with all firms in this dawning AI technology wave.”

Stephenson was previously a managing principal at Grant Thornton. Hylton was IRS commissioner of the Small Business/ Self Employed Division.

First, they advised firms to move at their own pace, resisting the urge to rush to take on many tools at once based on a fear of falling behind.  They counseled CPAs to do research on the technologies that are the best fit for their firms, to implement them fully, and to continue researching new technology.

“Remember: commitment to fully leveraging foundational tech is paramount, and sticking with it is more crucial than hopping on every bandwagon that passes,” they wrote. “Tech cycles are measured in years, not weeks or months.”

Second, they recommended that CPAs focus on the tools that can build on their firms’ strengths. They noted that AI can enhance a firm's competitive edge. They also suggested that firms engage in design sessions in order to brainstorm how AI might elevate those strengths.

Third, they advocated prioritizing high-impact projects and fixing problems. Some of the AI tools they recommended adopting are those used for cash collection, document processing, workpaper generation and IRS responses. They also recommended acquiring conversational chatbots to help staffers find documents and information.

By adopting such simpler tools, a firm can focus on the more complicated ones, Stephenson and Hylton wrote They suggested acquiring AI tools with short development cycles for quicker learning and adoption.

“[I]t is the tailored approach—paced, focused, and pragmatic—that will redefine ... success,” they concluded. “In the end, effective adoption of AI doesn’t depend on being the first to adopt; it hinges on being the most strategic about when and how to employ these powerful tools.”

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