The Implications of Industry 4.0 for the Auditing Profession

The current scenario, social and economic, has shown itself to be increasingly dependent on information technologies, not only for the various facilities they provide, but also for the dynamization of processes, such as the reduction of human intervention in such processes. Nevertheless, although these technologies entail high implementation and maintenance costs, they reduce the risk of human error, as well as fraudulent data manipulation, which can be more costly to companies than these technologies, because the magnitude of the error or fraud cannot be immediately measured exactly.

Technology has profoundly influenced the evolution of the audit profession. The technologies developed with Industry 4.0 (I4.0), such as Blockchain, big data, Internet of Services (IoS), among others, will drastically change the current business model and society in general, so companies must adapt to this rapid change in the current environment.

Thus, and based on these assumptions, a study was conducted in a real work context - fieldwork at RSM Moçambique, Lda - with the objective of analysing the impact of the new technologies of I 4.0 in the Auditing profession.

"The technological development resulting from I4.0 is also affecting the auditing profession. If on the one hand the new technological components of I4.0 demonstrate how their implementation can facilitate the auditor's work and improve the decision-making process in business management, on the other hand they require new skills and knowledge to the professional exercise."

I4.0 is defined as the technological development from embedded systems to intelligent Cyber-Physical Systems that occurred in industry (Hamid et al., 2022). It combines the integration of digital technologies, such as advanced robotics, AI, sensors, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics and classification, additive manufacturing, and mobile devices, among other digital technologies, into a global value chain that is interoperable and shareable, regardless of geographic location (Lin et al., 2018; Gallab et al., 2021).

 

It is a revolution that enables the application of advanced technologies in top production to bring new value and services to customers and the organization itself (Khan and Turowski, 2016). Thus, this will increase the flexibility of the existing value chain by maximizing the transparency of inbound and outbound logistics, production, marketing, and all other business areas in the entity, such as accounting, legal, human resources, among others (Dai, 2017).

The application of I4.0 technology, besides the disadvantages, with the high implementation costs and a limited structure and corporate culture, has brought benefits to organizations. Namely: it improves product quality; improves decision making; reduces operating costs and increases productivity; saves natural resources; requires new skills; reduces the number of errors; and improves product customization (Gallab et al., 2021)

Digital transformation has opened new opportunities for auditing and auditing will benefit from the technology promoted by I4.0, especially IoT, IoS, SCF and "Smart Factories" to obtain financial and operational information as well as other audit-related data from an organization and related parties. These tools drive more integrated data analysis, anomaly identification, and extraction of other useful information to provide efficiency and effectiveness to the auditor's work (Dai & Vasarhelyi, 2016). Their use has caused the auditor's effort to reduce, from information analysis to calculation. These authors argue that auditing will be an overlay of I4.0 business management processes.

For example, given the speed with which audit work can be done, a single auditor can complete several audit tasks in a short period of time (Nwachukwu et al., 2020). As such, there would be no need to hire new ones. The implication here is that practical experience will eventually be lacking in many new auditors. Thus, many companies are to some extent changing recruitment policies by placing greater
emphasis on digital skills over financial skills when hiring new workers. However, the shortage of necessary skills means that some audit departments are currently forced to outsource certain digital-related activities. These barriers to using these tools emphasize the need for digital skills acquisition to understand how new technologies work and their potential impact on audit functions (Betti & Sarens, 2021).

It is visible in the fieldwork that few companies are audited by generation 4.0, for a variety of reasons. Nowadays, audit work cannot only rely on the manual process, but on computer-aided audit techniques, which support and facilitate the audit work and the auditor, making it more effective and efficient. However, we corroborate with Asif et al. (2022) that in many countries and companies the application of I4.0 in auditing is in its infancy, in the 2.0 and 3.0 audit generation (see, Karapinar, 2021). Although the same authors believe that the technologies underlying I4.0 can improve the authenticity, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of auditing in the long term.

The fieldwork has shown that I4.0 will improve audit quality and open a new horizon for audit firms to adapt their working methods and processes and develop their service offerings, as found by Elommal and Manita (2022). But if on the one hand, technological advances have had a great impact on information systems, bringing about changes in the operational and management processes of organizations, especially in the way financial information is handled, on the other hand, the new technologies provided by I4.0 have made the auditing profession more dynamic, enabling a more advanced and larger scale analysis of financial information, with the aim of identifying non-conformities in real time. Situations that were only seen with the use of samples, where the credibility of the results could be relatively low.

Technology will cover all the work done by the auditor, but it will not be enough. There are several factors in the human universe that cannot be mathematized. That is, there is no way to define a model for elements such as social relations, feelings, and even thought itself, which are crucial to the auditing profession, such as professional judgment and the sensitivity to verify some anomaly.

With this work it was also possible to understand that the digital transformation and the use of new technologies provided by I4.0, in addition to assisting management, are useful in the definition of the entity's internal controls, in the improvement of decision-making processes in a timely and opportune manner, in the reduction of the length of audit procedures and, mainly, in the automation of processes, particularly in remote work/telework contexts in this new era. However, the digital transformation and the use of new technologies provided by I4.0, in addition to serving as an aid to management and the auditing professional, do not replace man in his social, sentimental, and thinking relationships, which are crucial aspects for the Auditing profession.

See the complete article here: the_implications_of_industry_4.0_for_the_auditing_profession_1.pdf

Lindiwe Nika Zimba

Auditor

Author(s)

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