These numbers show that instead of resisting change, companies are embracing the efficiencies of this new technology and exploring how individual businesses can leverage automation and, more importantly, artificial intelligence – aka robots. It's important to emphasize that the goal is not to curtail employees but to find ways to leverage the robots to automate everyday tasks or detail-oriented processes and focus the employees on higher-value activities. When performing an audit, many companies randomly sample roughly 20% of expense reports to identify potential waste and fraud. It is clear that in order to ensure future profitability, it is crucial for businesses to understand and take advantage of the significant role that robots can play in dramatically enhancing financial operations.
I'll discuss the entire industry but will make specific references to Deloitte & Touche LLP's audit practice, since I recently wrote a paper on their analytics initiatives.1 As evidence that big things may be coming to audit, the World Economic Forum undertook a "Technological Tipping Points" survey in 2015 to try to understand when several major technology-driven business and social changes might actually take place.2 Over 800 executives were asked, in one of the questions, when they thought that "30 percent of corporate audits would be performed by AI (artificial intelligence)." At Rutgers University, for example, Miklos Vasarhelyi, the director of the Rutgers Accounting Research Center and Continuous Auditing & Reporting Lab, has been advocating for more analytics and more continuous, semi-automated audit processes for many years. The leaders of the practice are committed to major changes in audit processes and technology, and analytics and automation technologies are key features of the new process. I've spoken about this topic with audit executives at Deloitte, accounting professors at various universities, and vendors of analytics and automation technologies.