The article discusses the impact that technology will have on the accounting profession. The technology includes data analytics, big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence and general automation. Experts believe that there will be a consolidation of firms – larger firms will acquire smaller firms. Many smaller firms will simply dissolve from the inability to harness the technological capacity to make services profitable. Some experts predict that small firms that remain will form networks among themselves to partner with other firms that have industry knowledge that their firm may not. Small firms will thereby be able to serve clients in a more cost-effective manner.

Audit is expected to be much more reliant on data. Use of data will impact the audit of historical financial statements. As more data is available faster, the focus may shift to real time reporting, or at least a faster conversion of data into financial statements, making the statements available earlier.

Blockchain is expected to become much more prevalent. Bitcoin began as a database of transactions. However, new applications allow users to store, share, and search for mined data within it. It provides quicker, verifiable data to authorized users. Therefore, it is accurate and transparent. This reduces the cost of third party verification and the cost (monetary and opportunity) of human error than can occur in transactions. Transactions can also be initiated by automated processing using blockchain. Data in the cloud can be programmed to trigger select electronic data sensors. Programmed electronic data criteria and conditions can automate the processing of other transactions. This automation reduces the cost of transactions as well as improves the efficiency of the audit process.

Journal of Accountancy June 2017