Big data and audit
In recent years big data has become a phenomenon and has enabled organizations to change the course of their business based on an abundance, quality and velocity of information. This change has also greatly affected the audit profession. A recent article in the CPA Journal examined how traditional data married with big data (structured and unstructured) might change the way auditors approach their work. Here are some scenarios:
- Rather than relying on sampling, auditors can examine all accounts receivables data. The large volume of data also allows it to be stratified by difference variables (like transaction amounts, time and location) to find more meaningful patterns or anomalies.
- Revenue numbers might be tied to sale calls to get a more complete record of sales activities
- Surveillance video is combined with inventory data for audit evidence
- GPS data may be combined with traditional shipping documents to verify shipping information
Other examples include:
- Matching diagnosis and procedure data in electronic medical records to claims
- Using data from mobile devices to ensure that home care treatments are completed as claimed
The use of big data in audits introduces many issues, including:
- Knowing what data is available and how to use it
- Accessing data that might be deemed as sensitive
- Combining data from different systems into one for analysis
- Learning how to combine structured data (e.g., transactions) with unstructured data (e.g., emails)
But big data also brings many opportunities for audit, including:
- Higher quality audit evidence
- More relevant business insights
- Stronger ability to identify fraud and operational business risks
For auditors, big data will also provide more opportunities to those who have strong technical data analytics skills, an analytical mentality, and the ability to design their own audit programs. It will also be a boon for internal audit teams who have intimate knowledge of the business, its data and how they work/correlate together.
To learn more interesting facts about the data behind audit analytics, check out our infographic on the topic:
About Alain Soublière:
Alain Soublière has many years of experience working with computer audit software. He worked in a senior management role as the IDEA Product Manager for many years before becoming Director of Product strategy for CaseWare Analytics and more recently the Chief Product Strategist.
Connect: Alain Soublière