What's Next For Accounting? - Issue #88

💡How To Bolt A Chat Assistant To Your Ledger

This morning Digits launched “Digits AI” a free chat assistant for your QuickBooks ledger. Is this a thing I would actually want, you ask? Will this change my life? Is this the year I fall in love with a QuickBooks file, akin to Theodore Twombley in the movie Her?

Maybe, TBD, and probably not yet but we’re getting close.

Astute observers of tech trends are quick to point out people were bolting natural language processing to ledgers 5 years ago, and it’s true. You also got a staph infection from a VR thing in a strip mall when you were 14. That doesn’t make the Apple Vision Pro any less interesting.

So is it any good?

What It Does: It looks to have access to account, customer, and vendor level data. Interestingly it gives you little embedded charts as well, rather than vanilla text output.

What It Doesn’t Do: It is not the wild west that ChatGPT is. It isn’t an unlimited universe from which you can live out your ledger-based fantasies. While it does draw on a general knowledgebase of accounting terminology, it doesn’t have access to ChatGPT’s general knowledge, or the ability to manipulate data in a freeform way.

How Security Works: The data's already living on Digits' server, what we want to know is how it interacts with public AI models. Here's the general approach, as I can work out from the press release:

1 ) The prompts are not trained into the model
2 ) Prompts are anonymized, and not able to be tied back to any individual/company
3 ) Prompt are also "obfuscated", likely "pseudonymisation", replacing identifying words with a non-identifying substitute.

In some situations you need to recover a redacted detail in prompt. For example the prompt: "bob has 4 cats", can be pseudonymised as "VO#OIV@R has 4 NLB#L$J@"

The pseudonymised prompt goes to the language model, so nobody can learn how many cats bob has, but on Digit's servers they know bob = VO#OIV@R and cats = NLB#L$J@, and the merged result is returned to the user.

But the million dollar question: in what ways can chat be helpful to business owners, and in what ways can be helpful to advisors. We’re all still feeling around in the dark here, trying to work out how best to leverage the tech.

They’ve got more improvements on the way: the ability to fetch balance sheets and income statements, mobile support, class and location support, follow-up questions.

But step #1 is getting this stuff into as many people’s hands as possible, to see what we can make of it. I for one, am a staunch supporter of anyone building AI tech for us accountants. So ten points to Digits.

If you want to take it for a spin you can connect up to 5 client QB accounts for free. Most interesting to me: what does the perfect version of this look like to you? How would you use it?

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