Technological change and the future auditor: Pathways to success

Are up-and-coming accountants prepared to successfully respond to rapidly evolving technology and its impact on the audit process? CPA Canada’s Eric Turner offers up his thoughts.

A previous blog discussed how evolving technology – in particular the use of data analytics and big data – is driving changes to the audit process. A key question is whether our future auditors will be equipped to address these changes.

In its paper Data Driven: What Students Need to Succeed in a Rapidly Changing Business World , PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) offers specific recommendations to strengthen technical foundations in data analytics and related skills to help accounting students prepare for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

The paper focuses on one megatrend, technological advancements, in the context of four business areas — audit, tax, risk management, and consulting — and includes examples of how a professional working in these areas might use technology in a value-added manner.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE AUDITOR WILL NEED TO KNOW HOW TO:

  • research and identify anomalies and risk factors in underlying data
  • mine new sources of data (requiring a base level of programming knowledge) and use insights to bring new value to the business
  • understand how databases can be used to work with data
  • use exploratory statistics, visualization tools, optimization methods, machine learning, and predictive analysis tools
  • process-mine using new data analysis techniques and algorithms, to isolate and investigate specific processes that might have led to changes to the underlying data or accounting

Evolving technology goes hand-in-hand with evolving skillsets, and therefore PwC’s curriculum recommendations reflect not only the changes needed to deal with the evolution of data analytics, but also the skills along key dimensions critical to the future professional, including leadership, business acumen and technical capabilities.

In a nutshell, it seems clear: building the auditor of the future will involve addressing technological changes along all pathways to becoming a CPA and beyond. The onus is on educators, employers and professional bodies to provide the young professionals of tomorrow with the tools required to navigate these changes, to enhance the future of the audit.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING.

Is the PwC paper on point? What other things might need to be done, if any, to develop our future auditors?

Post a comment below; or email me directly.

CPA Canada’s Audit Quality Blog is designed to create an exchange of ideas on developments and issues in global audit quality, as well as their impact in Canada.

About the Author

Eric Turner, CPA, CA

Director, Auditing and Assurance Standards, CPA Canada

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