In most ‘groundhog-day’ discussions of the past, the profession has looked at individual areas without considering others. We have to review all aspects of our work and understand that they are not static but are dynamic, interdependent. Through open inquiry and action research, we have identified four essential areas, which enable a comprehensive analysis of the existing profession and further provide us with key areas where we should focus our work. With the insights from the working groups of two AuditFutures assemblies and well over a hundred in-depth interviews and consultations, we have distilled our collective insights into four coherent areas of innovation that we believe are needed to drive systemic change within a profession:
This model defines four dimensions: societal, institutional, technical and human. Our theory of change is that in order for real progress to be made, we need to be able to pause, step back and reflect on all four areas all together in order to go forward. We must also reorient our collective thinking; it needs to be more joined up, multi-layered and multi-dimensional.
Audit should be viewed in the wider social context, considering its function and higher role within society, today and tomorrow. We want to take this conversation above what is legally required from audit and beyond the minor incremental changes in audit and assurance standards. It is very important to look at new areas, consider future scenarios and bring new voices that provoke a more intellectually stimulating social debate.
There is a real challenge to the relevance of audit in a world of growing information complexity, where financial data could only provide a very limited view of business. There is a growing need to develop solutions for assurance on a diverse range of information and to make audit open to methods like crowd-sourcing and distributed data analytics.
In the search for institutional changes that will enable us to do audit better, we have to re-evaluate the function and governance of the profession: the structure of the firms and markets, the policy process and our regulatory framework. There is a need to move away from old cyclical arguments into new engaging discussions that actively question and prototype solutions.
Audit is a people-driven economy and a key area of our work focuses on inspiring a socially minded professional culture. We want to explore the new competencies and qualities needed for a modern profession and to engage students, young professionals and leaders in designing the future of the profession.