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Are we moving into a cognitive era for professional firms?

Artificial intelligence technologies such as IBM Watson are a paradigm shift for professional firms according to speaker Mike Platt who presented at the alliance's North America Leadership Meeting in Miami

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As part of the session on benchmarking at the North America Leadership & Managing Partners Meeting in Miami, keynote speaker Mike Platt of INSIDE Public Accounting shared his views on trends in the professional services sector.

The future is now

For years the idea of artificial intelligence has been banded around in the legal and accountancy firm communities. However, now it is here, it is real.
Mike Platt INSIDE Public Accounting

A paradigm shift

Meet ROSS, the world's first lawyer robot

Last year, BakerHostetler, a large U.S. law firm employed ROSS, an artificial intelligence computer powered by IBM’s Watson technology. It works within the firm's bankruptcy law practice, has learnt the entire bankruptcy code and can discuss it in human terms. It knows about specific activities and case law in every jurisdiction across the country.

Platt jokes: “ROSS shows up for work every day, doesn’t take any vacation time nor needs any warm, cuddly anything to get the job done!”

Big Four firms get in on the act

KMPG have also signed an agreement with IBM Watson to explore how AI and augmented intelligence can fit in to their audit analytic strategy. According to Platt, a number of Big Four firms are looking at this as well.

Using AI is enabling companies to shrink the timeline involved in tasks, takes the human interaction out of it, increases accuracy, and after the initial investment, costs practically nothing. Humans are now able to have real conversations with computers about their clients. Platt adds: "It’s a fascinating world that we are walking into."

When will it come to mid-market firms?

Platt advised that mid-market firms should keep an eye on developments carefully and also shared that around four firms in the Top 20 are involved in a joint venture to scope out the potential of this technology. In Platt's view, within five years, this technology could come into use in mid-market firms.

Other technology developments

Blockchain

Blockchain the underlying technology of Bitcoin, provides full open transparency of transactions to assert that a transaction between seller and buyer is done properly, effectively and accurately. It’s a parallel technology to AI the Big Four are investing in to see how it fits into their business.

Drones

Platt commented that he is also seeing high definition (HD) photography and drones being used to carry out jobs faster than a human being. It is becoming possible for a photograph of a warehouse to be taken and scanned to ascertain the warehouse's inventory, with drones being used to count inventory. 

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