The impact of expert systems on auditing firms: an investigation using the Delphi technique and a case study approach
Baldwin-Morgan, Amelia Annette
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The increasing effort to develop auditing expert systems raises many questions about their impact on public accounting firms. This research examines the status of expert systems in auditing and investigates the possible future impacts of expert systems on auditing firms. The research involved two separate studies. First, a Delphi study involving auditing and expert-systems experts investigated the likelihood of the proposed future impacts of expert systems on auditing firms. The purpose of the Delphi study was not only to identify the most and least likely impacts, but also to explore the reasons why respondents felt they were the most or least likely. The Delphi panel suggests that expert systems will very likely have an impact on auditing firms in the next decade. The most likely impact identified was that use of an expert system for an audit task provides documentation references for audit judgements and reasoning. other specific impacts that were identified as very likely include distribution of expertise, increased ability to handle complex analyses, and improved decision consistency and quality. The panel also indicated that use of expert systems in auditing is very likely to impact the education of auditors. Second, a case study of an auditing firm using an audit planning expert system provided evidence concerning the impact of an expert system in use. The case study confirmed that, even today, expert systems may be used to provide documentation references and enhance decision consistency and quality. In the situation studied, the impacts were most evident for the less experienced users. The primary contribution of the research is to address questions and concerns about the impact of expert systems on the aUditing profession. The pool of potential impacts of expert systems that has been discussed in the literature can now be narrowed to focus on the most likely impacts. This research is the first step in developing a theory of expert systems impacts. It provides (1) the impetus for further research addressing more specific areas of potential expert systems impact and (2) case study evidence about expert systems impacts that are occurring today. Reasons for the most probable impacts of expert systems on auditing in the future are identified.
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