After revolutionizing tax and accounting over the course of decades, technology finally looks poised to reshape the third major service of the traditional accounting practice: the audit. Machine learning, data analytics, ever-more-powerful and mobile computers, and new tools like blockchain will do more than just change the way auditors do their job -- increasingly, they'll change what that job is. To get a glimpse of what the audit (and auditor) of the future will look like, Accounting Today convened a virtual roundtable of experts in the field. Sharing their thoughts on the future of auditing here are: Mark Baer, managing partner of the audit services group at Top 10 Firm Crowe Horwath; Frank Casal, vice chair of audit at Big Four firm KPMG; Cindy Fornelli, the executive director of the Center for Audit Quality; Joel Shamon, the national audit leader at Top Five Firm RSM US; and Jimmy Thompson, an audit partner at Texas-based MaloneBailey. Which trends -- whether technological, regulatory, economic or otherwise -- should auditors be paying the most attention to over the next five years? Casal: Audit professionals' work is fundamentally about "trust."
From shipping to shopping, nearly every industry across the globe has undergone a data revolution. Companies now have the ability to collect massive amounts of information from every facet of their operations--information that's unparalleled not only in its sheer quantity but also in its frequency and immediacy. This data deluge is transforming not only the way executives run their companies, but also the way those companies are audited. The potential benefits of this shift are broad and far-reaching. At the same time, customer demands are evolving, says Felice Persico, EY Global Vice Chair for Assurance.
Not long ago, audits could be performed only by teams of accountants manually scouring reams of financial information. But given the explosion of data in today's digital world, it's critical that the audit profession evolves its traditional processes and embraces advanced technology tools--including robotics, automation and cognitive technology. By doing so, it can uncover insights that allow the audit to continue to be relevant and effective in helping investors make important financial decisions. Learn how cognitive technology is changing the financial statement audit. Cognitive technology--also known as artificial intelligence--can go through a vast amount of data faster and more precisely than any person.
Can we trust Artificial Intelligence (AI) to audit financial statements? Artificial intelligence advocates speak of a time to come when these systems will be capable of auditing 100% of a company's financial transactions. These visionaries foresee the day when AI will enable auditing that is a continuous and real-time process, not a prolonged exercise requiring large teams of accountants working overtime after the close of a fiscal year. But is AI in auditing a good idea? Or do we even have a choice -- is it just part of the data-focused technology wave that all companies must embrace?
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.