Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most daunting, least understood, and sometimes feared concepts among the public—bringing to mind life-like, rogue robots and technological devices capable of single-handedly overhauling society. These imaginations (largely heightened by Hollywood) deter onlookers from recognizing the everyday possibilities of AI, and how this technology is not reserved for the Elon Musks of the world.
What is artificial intelligence? It’s the science of machines that can think autonomously and involves “getting a computer to do things which, when done by people, are said to involve intelligence,” according to John McCarthy, one of the founders of the discipline. From initiating self-driving cars, to translating multilingual conversations in real time, to super-computers such as IBM Watson, AI technology has facilitated some revolutionary inventions.
This new technology is also being used to accelerate the world of finance and auditing. Wolf & Company is currently implementing artificial intelligence in the audit sector in order to streamline the audit process, stay up-to-date with our clients, and deliver the highest quality audit services.
What is this Tech?
Wolf has entered into a pilot program intended to implement artificial intelligence in audit processes. This technology is an anomaly identifier, generating:
- Tests of complete populations of data sets
- Improved accessibility to data and visualization of trends
- Expanded sets of criteria for anomaly identification/testing
The abilities of this tech in audit systems are astounding. If you put in any data from a set, the tech will automate the process of sifting through the information and will bring to light anomalies in the data. Reviewers can look at the whole population of data sets (whereas before, we would just sample the work), giving a much wider view of the data.
This technology also uses an algorithm to hunt through client transactions to identify those with higher risk-weightings. This process results in a more robust analysis of the population than possible with current assessment procedures.
What Does This Do For Our Audit Systems?
This program will provide a better quality audit by giving us a better understanding of our clients and their processes. Wolf is seeing our clients’ companies using AI throughout every industry—and using it ourselves enables us to better understand the tools, generating a more personalized, purposeful, and streamlined audit.
The Human Element
One concern surrounding the implementation of this technology is that it will replace the people who perform the audits. While AI applications will certainly improve productivity, nothing can replace the strategic planning and calculated analysis of an auditor. In fact, the impact of artificial intelligence in auditing is likely an improvement in the quality of an auditor’s work process.
This program automatically sifts through the slew of incoming company data far more quickly than manual labor, freeing up valuable time for auditors to scrutinize the implications of specific data and give clients expert feedback. With AI doing all of the leg work, it will allow labor resources to be focused on what’s important—the strategic analyzation of data in the scope of a company’s specific needs while providing a more efficient, better quality audit to the company.
Retaining Tech Talent
No one wants to work for a company that’s using outdated technology processes. For an audit firm, implementing AI into our systems will attract and retain the best tech talent available, which means that our clients will be working with top-tier employees that find purpose and value in their efforts with clients.
So What Can You Do?
In order to thrive in any market, businesses must keep up with the times. Where would we be if we simply disregarded the computer when it emerged, and instead chose to continue our reporting and analyses on pad and paper?
Artificial intelligence is beginning to swiftly slide into the finance functions of corporations. Panelists at CFO Live 2019 recognized the bright future for artificial intelligence and how it’s working to push the boundaries of finance and audit. So what steps can you take to begin using this tech?
Start investing in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in your accounting and finance function to facilitate strategic decision making and support strategic initiatives. Deploying automation in the day-to-day accounting and financial tasks will free up capacity and resources for other strategic initiatives within the finance team or outside of finance/accounting roles, where growth capacity is needed.
With reduced need for back-office employee processing, and increased confidence in your financial reporting controls, your employee’s entire focus can narrow down to Financial Planning and Analysis (FPA) and strategic decision making. And, in smaller organizations, these outcomes are carving the way for the possibility of a self-service Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Many companies see their finance resources applied to non-strategic tasks (i.e. expense reporting, invoicing, cash disbursements, etc.). Get those non-strategic tasks done by technology and reallocate resources to strategic initiatives. Redeploy employees impacted by the automation to create capacity in other customer facing departments, or to provide project support where needed throughout the organization. The use of AI is not about employee reduction, it’s about effectively maximizing their time to facilitate company growth.
In order to give customers the highest quality service, finance resources need to be geared towards strategy. AI is no longer a foreign concept—it is here, and it is revolutionizing audit.