Studying Technology’s Impact on Audits

A corporate audit serves as an independent and objective assessment of the company’s internal control systems, providing important information to senior management and shareholders alike. The integrity of the audit is so important, in fact, that Congress established the Public Company Audit Oversight Board (PCAOB) to in order to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate, and independent audit reports.

This year, Colleen Boland was invited to serve as a Senior Economic Research Analyst with the oversight body, a one-year appointment during which she is studying technology adoption in public company audits. Boland is an assistant professor of accounting at the Lubar School of Business who specializes in auditing and accounting information systems.

Boland says that audit firms describe the impact that Big Data, data analytics, and digitization promises to make on the financial statement audit, but that little is publicly known about the results of their use of new technologies.

“In our study, we’re first examining what specific technologies are being adopted, how they are being utilized, and who in the audit engagement team is using them,” she says. “Then, we will determine whether these technologies in fact improve audit quality and, further, provide cost savings (through increased efficiencies) to the audit firms and their clients.”

The project is part of a larger PCAOB initiative examining the impact of technology on public company audits, including the PCAOB evaluation of the need for new auditing standards or guidance.

All of this, she says, will provide her (and other accounting faculty) with new insights into what she should be teaching her accounting students when she returns to the classroom next fall.