The impact of emerging technology on assurance approaches and implications for assurance leaders
Emerging technologies have quickly created a situation where traditional approaches to assurance are becoming increasingly unable to address the new risks these technologies create.
New technologies such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) present significant opportunities for both improving our world and creating competitive advantage – but they all bring new risks that need to be understood, managed and assured.
The speed, ubiquity, complexity and invisibility of technological change has driven holes through, and paths around, our traditional three lines of defence, and, without new approaches to assurance there is the danger of a breakdown in people's willingness to engage with technology and share data – an erosion of the 'digital trust' which is increasingly important to the success of our organisations, economies and societies.
This paper uses the example of machine learning (an area of AI) to illustrate examples of the new risks that come with emerging technologies. We identify two areas where assurance approaches need to change:
- We outline changes to existing assurance approaches to make them more timely, relevant and capable of addressing the risks emerging technology creates, and
- outline an approach to ethical assurance which we believe will be increasingly important if assurance is to remain relevant to organisations, investors and society more broadly.
To implement these changes we outline a number of practical steps assurance leaders can take to work out where to focus, to upskill their team, and continue to adapt their functions in the future.
We conclude that if assurance is to continue to contribute to building a better working world for our companies, our stakeholders and ultimately the next generation, then assurance leaders need to engage now with their stakeholders in this area.
We hope the suggestions in this paper provide a useful starting point for this conversation, and we would be delighted to discuss any of the topics covered.