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Cognitive technology has been at the forefront of the minds of many technology, government, and business leaders, because of its potential to completely revolutionize their fields. Furthermore, individuals in financial statement auditor roles are especially focused on the impact of cognitive technology because of its potential to eliminate many of the tedious, repetitive tasks involved in their profession. Adopting new technologies that can autonomously collect more data from a broader range of sources, turn the data into business intelligence, and even make decisions based on that data begs the question of whether human roles in accounting will be completely replaced. A partial answer: If the ramifications of past technological advances are any indicator, cognitive technology will replace some human audit operations and grow some new and higher order roles for humans. It will shift the focus of accounting professionals to more complex judgment and analysis.
The next question: What do these changes in the roles and responsibilities look like for the auditors of the future? Cognitive technology will assuredly present new issues for which humans will have to find solutions.
• How will humans be able to test the accuracy and completeness of the decisions derived by cognitive systems?
• If cognitive computing systems rely on supervised learning, what is the most effective way to train systems?
• How will cognitive computing fair in an industry that experiences ever-changing industry regulations?
• Will cognitive technology enhance the quality of audits?
In order to answer these questions and many more, I plan on examining how cognitive technologies evolved into their use today. Based on this historic trajectory, stakeholder interviews, and industry research, I will forecast what auditing jobs may look like in the near future taking into account rapid advances in cognitive computing.
The conclusions forecast a future in auditing that is much more accurate, timely, and pleasant. Cognitive technologies allow auditors to test entire populations of transactions, to tackle audit issues on a more continuous basis, to alleviate the overload of work that occurs after fiscal year-end, and to focus on client interaction.