Technology Skill for Traditional Auditors

By: Wale Wahab

The growing awareness of the need to use computers in domestic, commerce and industries has brought about a new turn in the way audit is conducted. Computerization or Information Technology has taken over most of the business activities and has spread over and beyond unimaginable tendencies.

Technology has brought about serious changes that may warrant traditional Auditors (i.e. Auditors who do not possess enough IT skill to perform audit tasks) asking themselves whether their role in today's world of computer-run organizations can be guaranteed. And if so, what must they do to remain relevant, maintain and expand the scope and quality of their services, and contribute to the new form of wealth in the contemporary knowledge economy.

We now live in a society where change is imperative. Even when we do not wish to change, it is forced on us. To be competitive in this dynamic environment, today's Auditors are expected to keep pace with the technological issues and opportunities surrounding the development.

Technology has affected the ways and methods Auditors carry out their jobs. Knowing what areas have been affected and which particular technologies have affected the areas is very important so that Auditors can continue to plan their carrier development.

Computerization of Accounting Jobs, Electronic Commerce, Electronic Data Interchange, Internet and On-line Services, to mention a few, have serious implications for traditional Auditors and their works because they have affected how and when information is created, processed, stored, communicated, acquired, refined and interpreted.

To add positively to the value chain creation in our modern organizations and societies, Auditors need to retool themselves to keep up with the rapidly advancing technologies and the resulting changes in the needs of their clients and employers. As a critical success factor, technology is changing the organization chart and value change relationships. Nevertheless, no matter how much automation takes place in commerce and industry, a lot of human intervention will continue to be involved in solving information problems at the level of information reengineering.

This is where Auditors have a great opportunity, as information architects and systems integrators, to expand their services. This means that the role of technology will change the nature, timing and location of Auditors roles in the value creation process. For instance, Auditors will now do less of manual vouching of accounting documents (which computers will now take over) and become information systems consultants, analyzers and interpreters of data.

They have to become information architects and information professionals to be able to assist their clients and employers into the mainstream of the information age, in which efficient information system, enabled by appropriate technologies are waved into the overall corporate strategy.

A major concern among opinion leaders in audit profession today is that the staggeringly fast changing information technologies may overwhelm the control capabilities of Auditors, unless they constantly upskill themselves at a speed consistent with the changes taking place.

To be effective, Auditors need to understand the security sensitivity of Computer-based Environment and be able to combat computer - related fraud. Acquiring information technology skills requires the discipline of learning. They must engage in the learning process necessary to revamp their skills.

They need to become information engineers and architects, using their superior knowledge of the business process to help management make efficient and effective Information Technology (IT) decisions. Offering sound counseling to management is an area that Auditors have a role to play.

As we realize the value of information as asset, they need to help management appreciate the need to protect both information and the technologies that are used to manage and move information. Having talked about this, it is now obvious that a major challenge in a knowledge society is making information productive. Information that is not secured cannot be productive for the owner.

Those who are responsible to ensuring integrity, confidentiality and availability of information cannot afford to be obsolete in the technology that is either used to process the data or convey the information. It is therefore clear that Auditors who do not possess the right skill to work in a computerized environment can not claim to have an answer to information security requirement of such establishment. Auditors in general must continue to enroll in IT Security Schools and Associations to leverage the gap being created by emerging technologies.

This is very important because they must fulfill the expectations of their employers and clients, who count on the truth and fairness of financial statements that they audit. They must also ensure that modern techniques and tools appropriate to the new environment in which they work are learned and used in verifying the validity of the financial information on which they express opinion.

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