Cognitive Technologies Help to Evolve the Audit Process

Gina Deveney
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Accountants love computer software that makes tedious processes more automatic; they give accounting professionals more time to actually advise clients and analyze metrics to make conclusions. Artificial intelligence, or cognitive technologies, may help take the accounting industry to the next level thanks to several new concepts entering the field.

Cognitive technologies put more computer processing power into assessing figures, numbers, images, invoices and inventories so accountants can offer better and faster analyses. Insights provided by accounting professionals who interpret the software's conclusions can mitigate financial crises before they even start. Document review represents one key component of this type of artificial intelligence software.

Computer programs can quickly scan stacks of contracts, legal documents and reports to extract vital terms that may produce questions for auditors and accountants. Cognitive technologies use natural language processing to read keywords and concepts embedded with the verbiage of legally binding material. Traditionally, accounting firms spend thousands of man-hours tediously poring over each and every mundane word of contracts. Artificial intelligence trains a computer system to recognize viable terms that accountants must analyze.

Document review completed by computers, sometimes with 100 percent of a company's vital papers, makes for very fast metrics. Accountants then take this information from separate documents to compile an overview of a company's current status. Auditors can use cognitive technologies to speed up the auditing process and recommend changes faster than before, thereby possibly preventing a company's financial downfall months before it happens.

Combine cognitive technologies with cloud computing and streamlined confirmation processes so that stakeholders of companies have a single way to access, collect, manage and authorize a company's balance sheet. Another use for artificial intelligence stems from automated inventory control. Instead of individually scanning items or using RFID tags, computers may learn to recognize photographs of products on shelves and account for their existence. When a photograph contains 10 labels for "bran flakes" and six for "oatmeal," the computer adds those items to the database. The health care industry already uses this method to inventory a patient's prescription medications. All that is required is a smartphone with a camera.

Programs such as QuickBooks, Xero and Paychex Accounting Online are industry leaders when it comes to streamlining and automating accounting processes. Accountants can use apps, software and bookkeeping principles that allow their firms to link with a client's computer system to obtain real-time data.

Accounting processes have already become faster due to the Internet, and today, cloud computing helps take the process even further. Cognitive technologies and software that store data remotely give accountants new options. As computers get faster and smaller, the industry stands on the brink of a paperless revolution that increases audit accuracy and reduces potential snafus thanks to big data.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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