by Heidi Riley
BDO is a full-service accounting, tax and advisory firm with around 5,000 employees across Canada.
Among its services is a national data and AI practice with end-to-end implementation offers in data including strategy, governance, data management, AI and support. It is a recognized leader in AI in Canada.
Jonas Slaunwhite, Senior Consultant at BDO, works in technology consulting, specializing in data and AI.
Since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, BDO has partnered with Microsoft to deliver their Azure OpenAI service, relying on, among other things, responsible AI practices throughout the process.
“The biggest thing for us is that Generative AI presents a change benefit opportunity – it is a new way of working. So while doing meaningful work and building relationships with stakeholders remain the priority, the definition of meaningful work and the steps needed to execute on the work is evolving as Generative AI is a productivity accelerator across many work streams in our firm,” says Jonas.
There are so many applications for Generative AI technology, such as ChatGPT, that BDO is exploring internally and externally with clients.
“We use Azure’s OpenAI service to augment research capabilities and to run scenario analyses. Now with the release of Microsoft 365 Copilot, these capabilities will be further amplified, working with our internal documents to sharpen new content generation and delivery efficiency.”
Jonas compares the present capability of AI to the early dial-up phase of Internet use, with many improvements yet to come.
“In both my personal and professional use, I have numerous custom copilots (powered by ChatGDP) that are purpose-built for specific tasks. I would not be surprised to see a 10x impact on the task complexity and volume of tasks I use copilots for as the AI’s acceleration continues.”
Jonas says companies can augment and extend their capabilities using Generative AI, but he advises caution.
“With all these tools, you need to look at your data foundation, specifically data governance and data quality. For example, if the data you are using is sub-par quality, the output will speak for itself. You need a pragmatic approach to using the software.”
Regardless of the type of AI being used, there are guidelines that organizations should consider:
- Keep your data secure. This includes IT controls, policies, and training on how you use your data and how people use this data, if at all, on public versions of an AI tool. For example, consider data literacy training on the importance of data quality and upskilling staff on the proper use of AI.
- Make sure the data used by AI is serving a specific purpose and consider the business outcome and how it affects people or customers when using that data. This is a core tenet of responsible AI.
- While there are countless benefits to AI adoption, there is a lot of fear around AI, its use and potential impact. Leadership plays an important role to ease those concerns. Defining an AI + People culture, and not an AI vs People culture is the best path to adoption.
- Take an honest look at your data and set some goals around a fast path to success and momentum. AI is an investment, and like all investments, the return should be clear.
“The combination of leveraging your data with AI is a clear way to differentiate your business from your competitors. A recent report from BDO Global highlights that adoption of AI and other advanced digital solutions is the number 1 strategy that organizations are pursuing to gain a competitive advantage over the next 12 months.”
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