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HLB Mann Judd to explore AI potential for small firms


The future rollout of Microsoft Office 365 to small and medium firms could see a significant acceleration in the use of AI, according to HLB Mann Judd.

By Miranda Brownlee 12 minute read

HLB Mann Judd will explore how it can expand its use of AI across different types of work in 2024 after three years of experience with the technology, the firm says.

Business transformation partner Fiona Dixon said the firm had been committed to AI since August 2021, when it created its automation and business transformation division.

“We’ve been on the journey for around three years now and there’s still quite a bit to do on the automation side in terms of trying to automate some of the more chunky work in audit and tax engagements,” Ms Dixon said.


The firm had created a variety of bots through Microsoft Office 365 and UiPath, each with avatars and personalities.

The bots performed a wide variety of tasks such as sending quarterly reports to clients; creating planning letters, closing letters and audit reports, and performing searches on ASIC and the personal property securities register.

Ms Dixon said the firm would now be looking at how AI could help explain technical issues to clients.

“A lot of firms are now looking to create their own Azure AI platform where they can bring their data into their own OpenAI service so that it’s available for staff to research,” she said.

However, Ms Dixon said the rollout of applications such as Microsoft 365 Copilot to small and medium firms was likely to drive the greatest change across the accounting industry over the next couple of years.

Microsoft Copilot, announced in March last year, leveraged large language models in combination with data from Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 apps to perform a wide range of business functions.

The tool was only made available to Microsoft 365 Enterprise customers in November but was expected to be rolled out for small and medium firms as well.

“That will be quite interesting because it may do a lot of what Azure OpenAI was going to do to an extent because it will be able to go into your SharePoint if you have your data there and find what you’ve done before and produce something. It will also be walled off and secure,” Ms Dixon said.

“We’re waiting to see what that looks like as opposed to building our own. We’ve spoken to other firms that have built their own that still have trouble getting to work properly and easily.

“Once Microsoft 365 Copilot becomes available to the smaller end of town I think that will really push the AI journey ahead quite quickly and strongly because it will be embedded into everything you do if you have a Microsoft 365 licence.”

Ms Dixon said this would help to make AI more accessible to firms that lacked the technical skill to implement Azure OpenAI.

“That’s where we will see the smaller accounting firms and even finance teams really being able to utilise [automation] and grow from there. It’s certainly something we’ll be looking at,” she said.

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