As robots continue to play a growing role in our daily lives, white collar jobs in many sectors including accounting and financial operations are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Business are gravitating towards software to automate bookkeeping tasks, saving considerable amounts of both time and money. In fact, since 2004, the number of full-time finance employees at large companies has declined a staggering 40% to roughly 71 employees for every $1 billon of revenue, down from 119 employees, according to a report by top consulting firm The Hackett Group.
Westland addresses the main reasons that audit effectiveness has declined over the past two decades – basically that auditor skill sets have failed to keep up with advances in information technology. This certainly must have some influence on the growing list of scandals afflicting the audit profession. Westland's book provides some very innovative solutions that address these problems in practice, using open-source software and statistical methodologies. It is unique among the current textbook offerings in IT auditing, and I would highly recommend this to anyone in the field or intending to enter the audit profession.
I have worked for a couple of decades with professional services firms that perform financial audits, but I have never done one--nor have I ever wanted to do one, to be honest. I'm not good with work that involves structured processes, details, and rigorous checking, and audits always seemed heavily infused with those kinds of tasks. Now, however, I am becoming quite interested in audits for two reasons. First, they are beginning to employ substantial amounts of analytics. Secondly, there is increasing talk about employing cognitive technologies to help with audits. Both of those approaches are right up my alley. So in this essay, I will address their potential impact on audits and auditing. 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