I’d hoped to cruise into a much needed holiday break this week, particularly after finding out the firm was giving us a 5-day weekend, yet it appears the vast majority of my colleagues are hell-bent on getting the most out of me in a two-day span.  I had full intentions of sitting down, knocking out a quick blog post, checking in on a few virtual meetings, firing off a couple of emails holding people at bay until December, and then figuring out this weekend’s football schedule.  A weekend that used to include the likes of rivalry games that called for hours upon hours on the couch both Friday and Saturday… The Game, The Civil War, The Iron Bowl, USC-UCLA, even Nebraska used to get torched this weekend… by Colorado back in the day, and I expect by Iowa this Friday.

Unfortunately, a couple of other more newsworthy events also have me on the edge of my seat before settling down to give thanks for a lot we should be thankful for in this bizarre year.  First and foremost, the very positive vaccine news last week.  No matter how you feel about the virus, this is positive.  I couldn’t help but imagine how Jeremy Grey (i.e. Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers) might take this news… “I get excited, but am I allowed to get excited, then you get excited, and then I pretend to be excited about you being excited, but are you really excited, and if you are excited does that mean you’re actually going to take the vaccine, because then we’re all excited.”  Mmmhmmm.

In other news, I woke up this morning to a message among fellow youth baseball coaches about a field liner robot called the Turf Tank, threatening to take our jobs as coaches.  For those of you that aren’t familiar, in roughly 99.9% of amateur baseball organizations across the country, coaches are left to “line” the fields before games… foul lines, on-deck circles, the batter’s box, coaches boxes, etc.  And while to many this may look a bit tedious and annoying at times, find me a coach who doesn’t take pride in this unappreciated artistic talent.  It’s a surefire sign to the opposing team who walks up to your field that we mean business.

Then it really got me thinking. Remember four years ago when robots, bots, AI, etc. were the rage, essentially capable of rendering all human accounting labor obsolete?  We were in a dead panic!  No more audit staff necessary?  Where would all of these poor college grads go for jobs if their accounting degree isn’t valuable enough to dig through A/R boxes, analyze GL detail, or fix the copier? Wait, are there robots that can fix copiers?  I can still picture walking out of a BDO Alliance Conference session where partners of several firms were fleeing to different corners of the Bellagio conference center, frantically calling back to their home offices, “Have you heard what the Big 4 is doing?  How will we ever keep up?  What do we do with all of those new hires?  We’ll never need human life in the office again!”  Um, how ironic as we continue in WFH mode…

Well, rejoice if you must, we’re all still here, and we’re all still hiring.  Before I go ranting off the deep end that I won’t recover from, I’ve asked my man and fellow GBQer Steve Boston to weigh in on this…

What we’ve learned, just like with computers and smartphones, is that AI and automation are not going away. But neither are humans. It takes someone understanding what the business process is to put the bot in place and to make sure it is working properly. Rather than replacing our jobs, the technology simply enhances our jobs, helping us to do more faster and more accurately.  It’s just like when Henry Ford invested the assembly line, humans will always find a way to improve and to be better. That’s all this is. It’s not Skynet taking over. In fact, we’ve been using automation in accounting for much longer than most realize. Using a calculator is automation of manual paper-and-pencil math. Using a spreadsheet is automation of paper ledgers and green-bar reports. Automation and AI is nothing to be afraid of, but rather something to be embraced, as it only helps us do what we do better.

You know what else robots don’t do? They don’t care about their clients!  They sure don’t have feelings.  How can you replace that in customer service?  When they make a robot that picks up the phone or answers a text at all hours of the day to help a client with an issue that only you have intimate knowledge of, then I’ll be concerned.  Until then, we’re still hiring, and you’ll find me honing my skill lining ball fields each weekend this winter preparing for what I hope is a back to normal baseball season come April.

There’s much to be thankful for!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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