The “future of auditing” is one of those terms that everyone talks about but nobody can define. It’s clear that auditors in the future will do a great deal of this work remotely. and deploying new technologies will also be necessary. Firms that opt for a quick fix without upskilling their employees or transforming their business processes can end up wasting huge amounts of both time and money.
The pandemic added a new sense of urgency to quickly embracing the future of audit. Waiting to see what others do is not an option. A recent study from the Institute of Internal Auditor’s Audit Executive Center shows that when execs want an internal auditor, 25% recruit for the traditional auditing skills of accounting, while 43% recruit for business acumen and 40% recruit for industry-specific knowledge. Without a holistic approach to preparing your professionals to the demands of the future, you could end up spending thousands of dollars on solutions that your staff don’t understand the benefits of and can’t fully leverage.
The emergence of sophisticated automation software and artificial intelligence requires audit practices to eschew antiquated notions about what makes a good auditor. Clients today are looking for trusted advisors, not just accountants. As a recent AccountancyAge article explains, “automation and artificial intelligence increase the dependency on soft skills, and faced with continued digital disruption, professionals need to hone in on these talents.” These soft skills include leadership, communication, emotional intelligence and critical thinking and problem solving. The article goes on to describe the accountants of the future as professionals who can “become business influencers and leaders, and position themselves as storytellers who provide foresight to business partners. They need to enhance their social and commercial skills to better tell the story of the business, generate new insights and business solutions, and collaborate effectively with colleagues and external stakeholders to improve both overall company and staff performance.”
Similarly, remote auditing will require auditors to enhance and supplement their existing skill sets. To be successful in the future remote environment will require improved project management and personal productivity. Future auditors must learn to supervise and manage from afar. Their communication skills will be tested.
So, how do you effect change within your firm on such a grand scale? Well-trained staff can diagnose and solve the problems caused by remote auditing and take full advantage of the new technology you implement. Staff that have not bought in to the transformation, are burnt out on change or aren’t trained in the foundational skills clients of today expect their auditors to possess, become unproductive and a drag on the firm’s performance and staff morale. Invest the time and effort in understanding your organization and formulating an appropriate business strategy first, then modify your audit methodology and find the technology that will support that strategy.
This holistic change requires more than just understanding your clients’ and staff’s needs today. The founder of MRA Learning, Mike Ramos, brings to bear over 30 years of experience in the accounting field, including stints as the director of CPE and training at the AICPA and Senior Manager in the professional development department at KPMG. MRA Learning has launched a curriculum of live, and distance learning tailored audit training programs targeting the skills audit professionals need to fully leverage new technology and prepare for the future. We help senior leaders gain clarity around problem definition and skills gaps BEFORE they start down the road to implementing their future audit plans. Finally, we work with managers to formulate an internal communications strategy, or “change story,” that lets staff know how and why the organization is changing, why those changes are important and how they’ll benefit from the transformation. This practice alone makes a successful transformation three times more likely.
Surveys also show that 72% of accountants prefer courses that “suggest personalized study content based on [their] specific progress, strengths, and weaknesses.” The business strategy and culture change needed to successfully prepare for the future of auditing is so profound that tailored training that addresses your firm’s unique needs and plans are really the only way to ensure that staff is “brought along” with the change and fully grasps the new skills required. Tailored training also provides an opportunity to interweave corporate messaging and internal communications strategies into the curriculum.
MRA Learning can help you formulate the methodology changes and skills development required for the audit of the future. We help firms implement a strategy that’s coherent, sustainable and enthusiastically supported by your entire staff.
MRA Learning offers a free consultation to help you better understand the status of your change program and suggest courses of action that will help you kick off your remote auditing and digital transformation on the right foot, or get your stalled transition back on track.