Xero has automated lots of office work, but says people will still be central to accounting in the AI age

Photo: NA Films/ Film4/ Universal Pictures.

The increased intelligence of machines has set off a debate about the usefulness of humans in the future, but Xero founder Rod Drury wants to assure the accounting industry that his company is on their side.

The CEO announced at the Xerocon conference a range of new features that integrate artificial intelligence into centuries-old accounting procedures. But he then paused to say the company is no longer just about software.

“We’re not just a technology provider,” he told the conference.

“We’re going to give you so much material, content and playbooks to allow you guys to drive your business. Because the human side is so important.”

Drury’s assurance drew applause from the 3000-strong audience of accountants and bookkeepers.

The entrepreneur later added that even though Xero was “trying go as fast as we can” on machine learning and artificial intelligence, accounting remains a “high-touch environment” that needs people to solve its complex problems.

“That’s why we take really seriously [the responsibility of] building the human side of the industry,” he said.

“We’ve made that decision strategically. And hopefully you see in everything we do is about building the accounting industry, not tearing it down… It makes so much more sense to take everyone on the AI and machine learning journey with us.”

Among the industry support measures revealed by Xero were a Lifelong Learning Platform, which the company is working with Swinburne University of Technology; Xero HQ software marketplace, which allows accountancy practices to digitise their back-office processes; and Xero Discuss, which is a new centralised communications tool for accountants to correspond with their clients.

Xerocon closes Thursday night in Melbourne.

The journalist travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Xero.

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