Updated: July 13, 2023
Nobody can avoid the lightning-speed advancements in artificial intelligence. Not even accounting and bookkeeping. A recent study stated that accounting professionals are among those whose careers are most exposed to the generative capabilities of AI, and at least half of accounting tasks could be completed faster with technology. GPT-4 even achieved a remarkable feat by passing the esteemed CPA exam. Deloitte’s Global CEO, Joe Ucuzoglu, also predicts that generative AI tools like ChatGPT will help accountants develop “mental superpowers.”
Like Accounting Today states, AI is coming for the accounting industry.
At Puzzle, we're all about leading this shift. The team at Puzzle consists of accountants and finance experts who have worked in a range of accounting and finance roles and fully grasp the value and challenges involved. Sure, AI and automation bring incredible benefits, but they can't always replace the invaluable insights and subjective expertise that only humans provide.
One of Puzzle’s mandates is to empower the accounting profession with groundbreaking technology that takes their capabilities to the next level and gives them back the most precious commodity: time. We want to see accountants become even more productive so they can become efficiency rockstars.
How AI helps accountants
Puzzle empowers accountants and accounting firms to do more with less. Puzzle’s paradigm shift and system of Autonomous Accounting incorporates elements of AI to help them shift focus and provide more valuable advisory services while creating a more delightful client experience.
We share the same sentiment with other accounting leaders (like Jason Staats, Kurtis Hanni, Matt Bontrager, and accounting professors) who believe that AI is not a replacement, but a transformer, and those who learn to acquire the skills to harness AI's potential will attain a significant advantage over those who do not.
Here are the five tenets we stand by to ensure we are supporting the accounting profession:
1. Puzzle is an enabler, not a replacer. Accountants and bookkeepers possess unique expertise, experience, and a deep understanding of accounting principles—there is no denying this.
Our goal is to provide new technology that streamlines accounting workflows, enhances communication, and reduces repetitive tasks.
By automating manual processes and bringing in new features that are not available in systems such as QBO, we aim to free up valuable time so they can focus on higher-value tasks, such as performing data analysis, assessing financial performance, providing strategic advice, and delivering personalized services to their clients.
2. Puzzle saves time by alleviating Triple M work: mundane, menial, and manual. Accounting and bookkeeping involve numerous repetitive tasks, including (but certainly not limited to!) categorizing, reconciliations, data cleaning, data wrangling, data imports, data entry, and tons of validation.
These tasks are time-consuming and Puzzle’s advanced automation capabilities were built to transform these manual workflows.
Our machine learning algorithms learn from historical data, improving its accuracy over time and minimizing the risk of human error. Transactions in our system are even auto-categorized (approximately 90%, depending on source data!)
3. Puzzle is real-time. Beyond workflow automation, we provide powerful tools that generate insights for timely decision making, like our Startup Metrics, Spotlight Trends, and Spending Explorer.
Accountants need to share information and offer valuable recommendations to multiple clients. But most accounting practices can spend 5-21 days closing the books before they can even provide these insights to clients. Puzzle was built to give accountants and founders the option to provide or access immediate financial statements, if needed.
4. Puzzle improves communication and collaboration. Puzzle’s platform has collaboration features that aren’t collectively available on any other accounting platform.
Puzzle allows accountants and bookkeepers to seamlessly collaborate in real-time with clients or other stakeholders without opening up a new tool. We provide the ability to tag and assign transaction review within the platform so conversations about transactions take place and stay within Puzzle, improving traceability.
One of our features, AI Categorizer, even helps accountants get faster answers from clients without the need to train them about the chart of accounts. This enhanced accessibility ensures faster decision-making, facilitates timely consultations with clients, and eliminates the need for lengthy email exchanges.
5. Puzzle continues to learn and adapt. Technology is ever-evolving, and so are we. We actively engage with our accounting partners (Burkland and Associates, Fondo, Accountalent, Trivium, and more) and users by seeking ongoing feedback and incorporating insights into our product as build out more features and workflows.
How Puzzle simplifies an accountant’s life
An important distinction of Puzzle compared to other accounting software systems is our product philosophy, what we are building, and the infrastructure we’ve intentionally built from day one to support our mission.
Puzzle’s accounting software was built with the clear intention to enable higher-value work and smarter decision-making through two product values:
1. Instant access to financial data creates timelier and smarter decision-making
Accountants and bookkeepers have traditionally held valuable expertise in their field. But here's the thing: their expertise unintentionally created isolated bubbles where they held all the keys to crucial financial information. This has made it tough for business owners and leaders to access, understand, and engage with their own financial data. This lack of transparency has also downplayed the significance of accounting and financial records. But Puzzle is here to flip the script. We want to open up the world of finance and accounting to everyone, giving business owners a front-row seat to their own numbers. We believe that when you have easy access, especially in real-time, financial gatekeepers become even more important, elevating the importance of the profession and empowering impactful decision-making.
How we improve timeliness in decision making
📆 Real-Time Financials: As Puzzle ingests financial data, we immediately reflect the implications in the financial statements. To do this, we leverage our auto-categorization features to include transactions in the financial statements, even if they haven't been fully perfected or approved yet.
In contrast, other accounting platforms quarantine transactions until they receive approval, resulting in financial statements that are not truly real-time. This "approved-first" system approach can hinder the sharing of insightful financial data until everything is thoroughly reviewed and deemed 100% accurate, which is not always useful for every type of company.
While we recognize that there is an absolute necessity for approved-first reporting with certain types of businesses, such as publicly traded companies, in certain situations, real-time financials can often prove more valuable than approved-first financials.
📊Accessible Founder Metrics Dashboard: Puzzle makes it easier and faster for non-financial founders to access their core business metrics. Key metrics such as Net Burn, Runway, ARR, MRR, Spend and Revenue are displayed in a simple and easily digestible design, empowering users to grasp important information effortlessly.
📒 Cash and Accrual Financial Statements: Companies require different reports, depending on stakeholders and goals. Puzzle recognizes this requirement and offers the ability to maintain both cash and accrual financial statements on a real-time basis, simultaneously.
2. Smarter accounting automation leads to time savings and higher-value work
The nature of accounting supports strategic decision-making, with financial statements holding answers to crucial questions. However, the month-end close process, burdened by manual tasks, has significantly delayed timely decision-making. Many companies can take up to three weeks to complete their book-closing procedures, rendering the data largely obsolete.
Puzzle transforms this situation by introducing innovative methods for acquiring and sharing strategic insights, empowering professionals to shift focus from tasks such as tactical data cleaning.
How we boost efficiency
🌐 Global Automation Rules: While other accounting systems have user-created and auto-suggested rules based on a company’s previous categorizations, Puzzle’s ruleset includes a more robust layer of global and system-based rules that is not limited to a company’s previous transactions. Our Autonomous Accounting workflow is also built so that Puzzle’s rules are constantly learning and improving all the time, meaning they also become more accurate.
👀 Output-Based Review: Puzzle’s system revolves around intentionally reviewing outputs and exceptions rather than transforming inputs, which makes users more efficient. Legacy systems expect that comprehensive, detailed, transaction-level reviews are normal and expected. While incredibly accurate, this adds to the timely process of achieving a completed set of financial statements. Our workflows streamline review and give the user the option to focus on lower confidence areas, and conduct a reasonableness review based on expectations for the rest. This eliminates time-consuming bottlenecks.
✅ Automated Accruals: Puzzle automates the creation of auto-reversing accruals based on any cash transaction with all supporting data linked and accessible directly within Puzzle, ensuring traceability and eliminating manual work. When accruals are recorded manually in other systems, it becomes significantly more challenging to trace transactions to source data.
🤖 AI-Powered Workflows: Puzzle’s AI models helps founders and accountants become more efficient with features like Ask AI and AI Categorizer. Ask AI syncs with OpenAI to recommend account categories for transactions based on vendor (including tax tips!) while AI Categorizer helps automatically assign accounts to uncategorized transactions with email prompts. The user replies to the email in plain English (e.g., “This was a new laptop for David”) and AI Categorizer interprets the response and categorizes the transaction based on the reply.
🗣️ PuzzleCollab: Puzzle's in-app collaboration feature enables seamless communication within Puzzle, eliminating the need for tool-switching. Users can request specific actions from others within a transaction, such as category review, documentation, or more context. Notifications are promptly sent to recipients via email, streamlining the process and reducing repetitive cycles of searching for answers and supporting documents.
And these features are just the beginning of what is possible. We regulary receive feedback from professionals in the field to drive the evolution of accounting software. If you're interested in joining our product advisory board and shaping the future of accounting, feel free to reach out anytime.
AI will not replace accountants
Accountants continue to play a crucial role in building trust and confidence in financial decisions through data analytics, developing policies and controls, communicating results, and serving as strategic partners to their clients.
Puzzle’s Autonomous Accounting helps unlock new superpowers as the role of accounting continues to evolve by providing professionals with useful data on a timelier basis to give their clients more valuable insights.
We also acknowledge that there are certain things that AI technology cannot do, which is why we still need accountants.
Accountants and bookkeepers are indispensable, regardless of the impact of AI. We are committed to empowering them by building cutting-edge technology that enhances their efficiency, productivity, and value proposition.
By automating repetitive tasks, streamlining processes, and offering actionable insights, we promise to help accountants and bookkeepers focus on what they do best—delivering exceptional service and contributing to the success of their clients.
With our incredible accounting practice partners, we're diving head first into this exciting shift. Interested in joining the accounting revolution? Learn why accountants partner with Puzzle and reach out to us at [email protected]