In a recent podcast interview with the Journal of Accountancy, Mfon Akpan and Scott Dell, both educators and experts in the field of accounting, delved into the significance of CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) and other professionals understanding generative AI, with a particular focus on ChatGPT. This insightful conversation sheds light on the transformative potential of AI and why professionals need to embrace it for their continued success.

Mfon Akpan is an assistant professor of accounting at Methodist University. 

Scott Dell is a CPA and assistant professor of accounting at Francis Marion University.

Read the full transcript at the Journal of Accountancy.

“Why should CPAs understand generative AI, particularly ChatGPT?”

The conversation covered the profound impact that AI technology can have on the accounting profession. They described it as a transformational force that could surpass the significance of historical developments such as the printing press and the written language. The implication is clear: those who fail to adopt and adapt to generative AI could find themselves falling behind in their professional endeavors.


Generative AI has the potential to revolutionize the way work is done in various fields, including accounting. While professionals can experience a tenfold increase in their efficiency with the right understanding and utilization of AI tools, those who remain novices or fail to grasp the technology’s potential might not reap the same benefits.

Mfon Akpan expanded on this notion by offering a movie analogy. He referred to the film “Me Time,” featuring Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart. In a scene from the movie, Mark Wahlberg’s character brags about Kevin Hart’s musical achievements and a specific album. However, when asked how to access the album, Kevin Hart’s character humorously responds that it’s available on DVD. This scenario highlights the importance of being up-to-date with technology, as no one wants to be the CPA who touts outdated methods and tools.

Scott Dell reinforced this idea by noting that clients, staff, and students are already incorporating generative AI into their workflows. If professionals don’t join the AI wave, they risk losing ground to their clients and competitors who have embraced it.

The Question of Accuracy

The power of generative AI, including ChatGPT, is not without its challenges. One significant concern is accuracy. While these tools are immensely powerful, they are far from perfect and may sometimes produce inaccurate or misleading results. This means that understanding and guiding AI tools effectively is crucial for professionals to make the most of this technology while minimizing potential pitfalls.

One striking aspect of the conversation is the rapid evolution of AI. The interview was recorded in August, and the experts discussed how generative AI would likely evolve by 2024. They predicted that by that time, the capabilities of AI tools would have expanded significantly. Scott Dell mentioned the growth of plug-ins, analogous to apps on a smartphone, which provide additional functionalities to AI systems. The number of plug-ins had already surged from 20 to 500 within a short span, greatly enhancing the utility and applicability of these tools.

Mfon Akpan raised the intriguing concept of the “10/10 rule,” borrowed from Steven Johnson’s book “Where Good Ideas Come From.” The rule suggests that it takes about 10 years to develop a technology and an additional 10 years to fully implement it. However, with the rapid pace of advancements in AI, this rule may need to be reconsidered. AI technologies, including ChatGPT, have been evolving at an unprecedented rate, and their implementation has been much faster than traditional technology cycles. This acceleration underscores the need for professionals to continually adapt to new technologies.

Microsoft Copilot

Also mentioned in the interview was the imminent introduction of Microsoft Copilot, which will be integrated into Microsoft 365 for Business. Copilot is expected to revolutionize applications like Excel, Word, and Outlook. It will not only generate content but also understand natural language queries and dynamically adapt to user needs. Professionals need to be prepared to harness these tools effectively when they become available.

The Importance of Understanding Prompt Engineering

Mfon Akpan also highlighted the importance of prompt engineering when working with generative AI. He used an example from a study conducted by Dave Wood and other accounting researchers, which assessed ChatGPT’s ability to pass the CPA exam. The results showed that ChatGPT’s performance depended on the quality of the prompts provided. When simple prompts were given, the AI system struggled, but with more complex and well-structured prompts, it performed significantly better. This underscores the importance of crafting prompts and interactions to maximize the potential of generative AI.

Prompt engineering is indeed a pivotal aspect of using AI effectively. When interacting with AI systems like ChatGPT, the way questions are framed and the context provided can greatly influence the quality of responses. As the technology continues to evolve, it is expected that AI systems will become more adept at understanding and responding to natural language queries, reducing the reliance on sophisticated prompts.

AI is not only transforming the professional landscape but also impacting education. In the discussion, they mentioned that AI experience is increasingly becoming as important, if not more so, than a college education in various contexts. This has significant implications for the education sector, as schools and universities need to incorporate AI into their curricula to prepare students for a future where AI proficiency is a valuable skill.

Potential Consequences of AI on the Job Market 

While AI tools can enhance efficiency and productivity, there are concerns that they may also lead to job displacement in certain areas. Scott Dell pointed out that AI can also create new opportunities, emphasizing the importance of adapting to the technology.

The need for lifelong learning remains important. Both experts stressed that staying updated with the latest advancements in AI is crucial for professionals. The rapidly evolving nature of AI means that what was cutting-edge yesterday could be outdated tomorrow. 

Mfon Akpan aptly summarized the importance of embracing generative AI, like ChatGPT, by saying, “If you’re not in the AI game in 2024, you may not be in business for long.” This statement underscores the urgency and relevance of understanding and effectively using AI technologies in various professions, including accounting.

To read the full transcript, visit:

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