Intelligent Automation in the Audit Process: An Investigation of and Proposals for the Use of Intelligent Automation in the Audit Process

Christian Camilo Porsborg & Muhammad Ismaeel Rasul

Student thesis: Master thesis


The world is changing. We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution and currently in progress of exploring and experiencing new revolutionary disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Robotics, Internet of Things, Advanced Data Analytics and much more. The authors of this thesis are convinced that the audit process will be materially affected in the coming future, and hence the purpose of this thesis is to examine the effect from these technologies. The technologies that are being examined in the thesis are Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Intelligent Automation). Firstly, whether the hype of the technologies is merely a marketing tool for the audit companies or whether Intelligent Automation is actually applied as an integrated part of the audit. The examination shows that, at the time of this thesis, Intelligent Automation is primarily used to optimise internal administrative processes and tasks rather than actual audit procedures. The closest we come to identifying audit procedures in the thesis is the reconciliation of securities where it is possible to use Robotics to reconcile securities recorded in the accounts to external data extracts from the depositary bank. To determine what areas of the audit process may potentially be subject to Intelligent Automation, we have examined existing research literature and interviewed a number of stakeholders. The examination shows that expectations are that Intelligent Automation may be used in routine areas for which no significant risks have typically been identified and where technology may improve efficiency and quality. Based on this, we have in this thesis developed specific proposals for adopting Intelligent Automation in the following areas: • Detailed substantive audit procedures of bank letters, receivables (confirmations) and payroll • Review of annual reports to check for compliance with IFRS disclosure requirements. The specific proposals developed have been reviewed together with the digitalisation responsible persons of the Big 4 audit companies to determine their scalability and potential. Furthermore, the proposals have been reviewed by a technology expert to determine their technical potential and limitations. The results of these reviews show that the proposals hold a potential – both professionally and technically. The challenges in the development and implementation of new audit tools would be those of a practical nature arising from the ambition of collecting strong and structured data – and not least that, despite using such tools, the auditors must still address assumptions and general observations in the audit critically. Another factor that will also have a decisive impact on the use of Intelligent Automation is how the tools will be perceived by the supervisory authorities. During the thesis, we have interviewed the Danish Supervisory Authority on Auditing, who is aware that tools will be used to a higher degree in future, however, the Supervisory Authority's primary focus will (still) be whether the auditor has adequately documented and considered the assumptions and general observations in the audit. The thesis closes with a discussion of whether the International Standards on Auditing can accommodate the use of Intelligent Automation. These Standards are based on principles, and the authors believe that presently they accommodate such use, but that there is also an appropriate need for updates/guidance on key concepts of the audit theory as Intelligent Automation will have an impact on areas such as ‘detection risk’, will make the concept of "extrapolation of errors" irrelevant and lend another perspective on the scope of test of controls.

EducationsMSc in Auditing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages124
SupervisorsJørgen Valther Hansen