Scott Zimmerman discusses the rapid and dramatic transformations taking place in the audit environment and the professionals who support it.
Scott Zimmerman, Americas Assurance Innovation Digital Leader, sat down with Catherine Ide, Managing Director of Professional Practice and Member Services at the Center for Audit Quality, to discuss the rapid and dramatic transformations taking place in the audit environment and the professionals who support it.
How are the innovations in data analytics and artificial intelligence being implemented on audits today?
Scott Zimmerman: Audit professionals are very skilled at what they do—they understand data because they use it all the time. But now, data is taking on an even more powerful role in the audit because various emerging technologies have the capability to vastly improve processes.
However, these new technologies require a measured approach. We need to walk with analytics before we run with AI, and focus on data because that’s the start of everything. Let’s understand data and deploy it in analytics, and do it with the intent of really changing the audit, not employing analytics just to do analytics. We need to take a very purpose-driven approach to change the procedures and the impact, not only in our own strategy, but in the way our clients interact with us.
What can investors and audit committee members and other stakeholders expect from the audit of the future that they may not necessarily be seeing today?
Scott Zimmerman: I think the biggest difference is going to be the dialog we’re having with management, the dialog we’re having with audit committees and doing it at a much more accelerated pace. Once we get data, we’re not going to be looking at it one or two times a year. We can look at it twelve times a year if we want and really accelerate the observations and inquiries that we normally have.
What is the most profound change coming to the audit in the next five years?
Scott Zimmerman: The most profound change is already happening—our people are thinking much more operationally, much more strategically. For the past 150 years or so, audit work has been very account-based. Today, when we look at data sets, we pivot toward being process-based, which is exactly the way our clients operate their businesses. This is a dramatic change in the way our people move from a very burdensome, manual approach that doesn’t take advantage of their intellect to one that really allows them to apply their thinking and innovative mindset right out of the gate.