Chat GPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot developed by the OpenAI organization. Many readers may already be familiar with chatbots, which are software applications that simulate human conversation via text or voice interactions. The “GPT” in Chat GPT stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer; it is a large language model (LLM) that is trained to create text that is intelligible to humans. It depends on a form of machine learning (ML) that trains neural networks to recognize patterns and make connections in data. (See Vident Dwivedi, “How Chat GPT Will Impact Accounting,” Data Driven Investor, April 5, 2023, https://bit.ly/3CLZzSB.)
AI chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) to interact with humans; they use unstructured inputs to develop their own logic. An AI “bot” technology that can automate rule-based and standardized tasks is called Robotic Process Animation (RPA), which can process data and complete transactions using structured logic and inputs. The integration of chatbots and RPA can perform specific tasks in response to a query, providing more comprehensive results.
This month’s column takes a look at some introductory Chat GPT resources for CPAs who would like to learn more about this automation toolbox.
Pop Automation (https://www.popautomation.com/) is a commercial firm that provides software applications to automate and streamline digital business reporting processes. It supports OpenAI’s Chat GPT, Alteryx, and many popular Microsoft products. Its website provides a large collection of articles with step-by-step screenshots on a variety of technologies commonly used by accountants, such as Excel, Power BI, and, of course, Chat GPT. Readers who are not (yet) interested in using Chat GPT will find many handy “how-to” and best practices articles on common software applications.
Pop Automation’s website presents several excellent detailed blog posts on Chat GPT, with visual aids and links to outside resources. “How Chat GPT will Impact Accounting” (https://bit.ly/44aykNl) illustrates how Chat GPT can record a journal entry, answer financial questions, automate financial reporting, use Microsoft Excel to complete tasks, perform (initial) tax research, and input data into Quick-Books. Pop Automation predicts that Chat GPT will replace transactional accounting and low-level computer programming, but it does not currently recommend using Chat GPT to prepare income tax returns. It also discusses several limitations, which could be summarized as “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO), and it explains why Chat GPT will not replace accountants.
“How to Use Chat GPT for Financial Analysis” (https://bit.ly/3XhEQQ2) demonstrates how to use Chat GPT with horizontal analysis, vertical analysis, and financial ratio analysis. It can summarize or edit financial statement disclosures. Accountants who are familiar with Excel and Power BI can pair Chat GPT with these analytical tools. Chat GPT can be used to simplify forecasting techniques, generating as much or as little detail as desired.
The Pop Automation “how to” blog posts cover using Chat GPT with the wide variety of software applications that the company supports, in particular, many Microsoft applications. Although Microsoft is discussed in more detail below, readers might find “What is Microsoft Copilot 365” (https://bit.ly/3NHVjdt) to be a nice preliminary introduction. Microsoft Copilot 365 will allow non-technical users to employ more powerful software applications. Chat GPT is quite useful for creating or trouble shooting Excel formulas, as highlighted in “How to Use Chat GPT with Excel” (https://bit.ly/43IHAbL). It can also generate commonly used Excel templates, such as invoices; with small data sets, it can copy and paste e-mail templates. Chat GPT can consolidate multiple Excel spreadsheets into one.
For readers who are Excel and cloud computing enthusiasts, “Connect Excel to Chat GPT in Under 5 Minutes” (https://bit.ly/42N0PQh) demonstrates step-by-step how to use a process automation platform called Zapier as an application programming interface (API) to make the connection. The article describes how to set up an API key (for which there is a charge by amount of usage) on an OpenAI account. Additionally, Zapier is a cloud platform, requiring the intended data set to be accessible online. Zapier will prompt the user to test the results at intermediate steps in the setup process.
Microsoft 365 Copilot
Microsoft’s Blog (https://blogs.microsoft.com) keeps users up to date with all things Microsoft. Narrowing the focus to AI and Chatbots of interest to CPAs, “Microsoft Build Brings AI Tools to the Forefront for Developers” (May 23, 2023) explains that its current Microsoft Build event for technology developers includes increased support for Chat GPT, expanding Bing AI chat, and developing “copilots” and plugins. A copilot is an AI application that uses LLMs including Chat GPT to assist users with complex tasks (https://bit.ly/3Nn1eDi).
Microsoft 365 Copilot (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365) is an AI assistant feature for the various Microsoft 365 applications that uses OpenAI’s Chat GPT and Microsoft Graph data connector to convert text input into content. “Introducing Microsoft 365 Copilot—Your Copilot for Work” (https://bit.ly/43Rskte) is essentially a marketing pitch, but it does present a high-level explanation of why potential users will find the new technology to be beneficial. The article connects to a short (1:36) YouTube video that shows a quick big picture presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7xTBa93TX8).
Microsoft 365 Copilot will enable advanced features, such as Power Query in Excel, to be enabled by prompting a chat bot. Initial Word and PowerPoint draft text can be created by chat bot “researchers” as a starting point for professional communications. “Introducing Microsoft 365 Copilot—A Whole New Way to Work” (https://bit.ly/3XlHRiD) provides a more detailed overview, with embedded videos about how Copilot is used in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams. A related video, “How Microsoft Copilot Works” (8:00) demonstrates how the LLM works with some of the Microsoft applications (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2-8wrF9Okc).
Accounting Influencers (https://accountinginfluencers.com/) is a U.K.-based marketing network of vendors, experts, and specialists working in the accounting and fintech sector. Members include software vendors, fintech providers, and specialists who sell to and through accountants. Accounting Influencers offers weekly podcasts (https://accountinginfluencers.com/podcasts/) on accounting, bookkeeping, finance, and technology topics. The archived podcasts are available on the organization’s web-site as well as on its YouTube channel. Podcast series include “Best Practice in Accounting,” “Influencers in Accounting,” “Insights in Accounting,” and “UK Matters in Accounting.”
There are three relatively current pod-casts addressing AI, including “The Full Impact of Chat GPT and AI in Accounting” (January 10, 2023; 14:52), which provides a definition, a brief history of its development, and an overview of multiple possible uses by accountants and CPAs. It also discusses some of the disadvantages of using Chat GPT (https://bit.ly/3qL07p9). “How AI and Chat GPT Change Accounting” (June 12, 2023; 29:29) is an excellent 30-minute podcast that covers background information on the development of human-interfacing AI and language models. Importantly, it addresses privacy and confidentiality risks (https://bit.ly/446Fy5D). “Artificial Intelligence in Accounting” (November 23, 2022; 25:34) discusses how accountants can use AI, describes practical applications for accountants, and presents the benefits as well as detriments to employing these tools (https://bit.ly/43MsFxc).
AI Tools to Get Started
OpenAI Chat GPT—account sign up
OpenAI Chat GPT Plugins
Microsoft 365 Copilot
Microsoft Power BI—free download