In a recent LinkedIn poll, we asked auditors “How much of a barrier is access to client data to the digitisation to audit?”. The answer was pretty resounding with 74% of auditors confirming data access to be a significant blocker to transformation.
This result is, perhaps, not surprising. Many of our conversations with auditors around the globe loop back to client data access challenges. But why is this the case?
In a typical audit process, an auditor will encounter hundreds of different accounting systems and multiple systems in the same company. There are also many conflicting definitions and standards when it comes to data.
Furthermore, the process of obtaining client approval for the provision of data to the auditors can be time-consuming. This results in multiple attempts and a lot of back and forth between the company and the auditor on data capture. Every time an audit is performed, this complex, time-consuming and inefficient data extraction analogy is applied.
A move to technology to make data gathering and analysis more efficient and to improve the quality of an audit is quickly becoming a must-have, rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ tool.
After a period of intense, and at times, relentless scrutiny, momentum is building, and the audit sector finally appears to be more engaged in conversations exploring how audit technology solutions can deliver meaningful change. However, whilst the need for change and data is understood, the ability to access data both to drive innovation and also to deliver digitised services remains a major blocker.
Data is, of course, a valuable asset but when we talk about data access, the common misconception is that increased access to corporate data means the client loses control. However, with Engine B’s technology, this is not the case. Our technology solutions are implemented within the client Azure Tenant such that the client’s data is controlled by the their data security. We do not hold client’s data or share data outside of their tenant.
Engine B’s audit technology solutions provide a unique solution and are making it easier for auditors to securely access, process, sort and analyse data and subsequently make more informed decisions, free from fears of privacy concerns.
Engine B’s open-source Audit Common Data Model has been developed in collaboration with the ICAEW, thirteen of the UK’s leading audit firms, academic institutions and Microsoft. This model, made by auditors for auditors, works by providing a common data access platform that can be installed in any client environment. At the core of Engine B’s audit technology solutions, the Audit CDM is completely secure and uses one set of data models that are available to all auditors. The data itself isn’t open-source and the data is secure meaning auditors can work from and understand the structure of the data, and instead focus their time on reaching decisions. The data still belongs to the customer, and it stays where it is – inside the company’s servers, whether in a cloud service, or owner-hosted.
Without being able to share and understand the same data easily, each application or data integration project undertaken by an individual firm requires a custom implementation, which can be costly and time-consuming – something smaller, challenger firms often cannot afford. Providing access to data in a standardised form removes this barrier to entry for smaller firms by eliminating the need for them to invest in costly data-extraction tools. For firms of all shapes and sizes, the model will minimise the friction of finding and leveraging data and pave the way for the accelerated execution of digitised audits.
Let’s be clear that when we talk about access to data, we are talking about access to quality data. There’s no use in digitising your audit using unreliable data. Auditors need to feel confident that their analysis is based on data that is robust and of high-quality. It’s unlikely that data in any organisation is going to be 100 per cent accurate. Databases can contain the wrong information, house duplicates and contain contradictions. Data of inferior quality simply cannot bring truly useful insights or unearth opportunities to precision-demanding audits. And this is where Engine B’s Knowledge Graphs come into play by visually serving up both structured and unstructured data, highlighting complex relationships between data entities and crucially providing vital context for the auditor’s decision-making process.
Whilst the Audit CDM provides a base-layer of quality data and universal data standards, Knowledge Graphs sit on top of the model and enable firms to make the best possible use of their data and analyse it in a more meaningful way. They do this by combining and uncovering connections across silos of information. When leveraging both the Audit Common Data Model and Knowledge Graphs in the client’s site, the end result is that the client is provided with improved quality of service in the form of a truly digitised audit based on high-level insights from quality data. All this without the data ever having the leave the client environment.
Working with audit firms on a daily basis, we hear first-hand from auditors that access to client data is holding back and delaying the digitisation of their audits. We also know that problems with data access act as a barrier not just to the firms’ execution of better-quality services, but to research and innovation across professional services. If the audit industry is to finally address some of the key issues it has been facing over the past few years, then unlocking access to corporate data is not a want, but a fundamental need. With unlocking access to corporate data at the heart of Engine B’s purpose, our audit technology solutions, like the Audit Common Data Model and Knowledge Graphs, do just that and are playing a leading role in overcoming audit’s biggest hurdle.
Serious about getting the most out of your data? Find out how your firm can leverage our Audit Common Data Model and Knowledge Graphs to improve audit quality by downloading one of our guides.