Friday, 21 September 2018 14:06

MYOB boosts R&D spending

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MYOB CEO Tim Reed MYOB CEO Tim Reed Supplied

Tax and accounting software company MYOB is increasing its investment in research and development to $100 million a year, chief executive Tim Reed has told iTWire.

At the MYOB Partner Connect conference in Melbourne, Reed described the increase from 16% to 20% of revenue as "pretty exciting".

The additional expenditure would support sustainable revenue growth, he said.

As MYOB's revenue grows, the percentage expended on R&D would decrease.

Ten years ago, the R&D budget was around $15million to $20 million, Reed said.

"Artificial intelligence and machine learning will dramatically change the way accounting is done," he predicted.

Historically, there have been three separate processes — transaction processing, compliance and advisory — done over an 18-month period by three different groups using different software.

MYOB was investing in its platform to support these activities happening in parallel and in real time, he said, and the company was about half way through the development required.

This would allow more informed business decisions, and consequently more business success for MYOB users, Reed predicted.

MYOB Advisor — a tool that uses AI and ML to turn financial results into a written narrative and raise relevant questions — is "absolutely playing the role it is designed to", according to partner firms who think it t is "the coolest thing they were doing", he said.

There is enough potential value that professional advisors can deliver to a sufficiently large percentage of the small business community to justify these investments.

Small business owners are unlikely to want to use such tools themselves, because "they actually want to have a conversation" and collaborative experience with professionals who understand their aspirations and goals.

While the application of AI is likely to change the skills needed by accountants and bookkeepers, each major change in history (eg, the Industrial Revolution) had been navigated successfully even though people don't like having their skills devalued, he said.

"We will adapt, because we always have."

On the subject of changing skills, "we [MYOB] absolutely invest in training and skills development", said Reed, for example by supporting programmers to learn new languages and providing training in specific skills.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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