حسابداری کسب و کار الکترونیکی :صلاحیت مشورتی و یا تجاوز شغلی؟
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|3793||2012||15 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 23, Issue 6, September 2012, Pages 468–482
This study sets out to examine the impact of technological change on the external audit function of e-businesses and, specifically, the professionals involved in executing it. Utilising semi-structured interviews combined with a questionnaire survey, this paper explores the possible implications of developments in e-business audit for financial auditors as a professional group. The findings suggest that the traditional authority enjoyed by external financial auditors is being, and will be, increasingly challenged by IT audit specialists. The role of the professional bodies, responsible for the education and training of financial audit professionals, in particular, is highlighted as key to the outcome if they are to fend off challenges in this growing arena and retain jurisdictional control.
The course of professionalisation is very much coupled to inter-professional relations and the activities and tasks performed by professionals. To this end, the history of the professions is littered with cases of jurisdictional manoeuvring, where the hegemony of a professional group is threatened or even eclipsed by another with a skill set more specific to a particular task.1 In British accountancy, accountants had plied their trade long before professional organisation was initiated in the late nineteenth century (Matthews et al., 1998), competing with solicitors for legal and financial business. They carved a specialised niche for themselves, initially engaging in resolving the fallout from bankruptcies and liquidations and eventually monopolising the legal requirement for audit and slowly expanding their jurisdictional claims to encompass cost and management accounting too. The professionalisation process is one of evolution2 and accountancy has long been, and continues to be, a contested terrain in the modern economy (Cooper and Robson, 2006). At various times, accountants also engaged with bankers over the jurisdiction of business advice and with managers over the provision of staff services (Abbott, 1988). In more recent times the work performed by accountants has been significantly transformed by the introduction of information technology (IT) (Caglio, 2003 and El Sayed, 2006). For auditors, in particular, the computerisation of clients’ systems and the recent growth in e-business present new audit challenges. Within the last decade the literature pertaining to the use of information technology (IT) in accountancy (Orlikowski, 1992 and Caglio, 2003) and in the audit process (Manson et al., 2001, Bierstaker et al., 2001, Shaikh, 2005, Matthews, 2006, Janvrin et al., 2008, Omoteso et al., 2010 and KPMG, 2010) has been steadily growing. Some of these have focussed on the use and inadequacies of computer assisted audit tools (CAATs) (Bierstaker et al., 2001 and Shaikh, 2005), whilst others have, more recently, explored the relationship between financial auditors and IT specialists involved in external audit (Vendrzyk and Bagranoff, 2003 and Brazel, 2008).3 However, very little attention has been directed towards the use of IT audit specialists in the external audits of e-businesses. This empirically rooted study sets out to redress this and examines the impact of developments in e-business on the external audit function and, specifically, on the professionals involved in executing it. E-businesses evolve in an IT-driven environment and are dependent upon the use of composite technologies for networks, communications, databases, and securities (Pathak and Lind, 2007 and Kotb and Roberts, 2011). This has become an important area for study for two reasons. Firstly, the last five years has witnessed a period of accelerated growth in e-business both in the UK and globally. In the UK, the corporate website has become an essential means of communication with stakeholders with the proportion of non-financial businesses selling over the Internet doubling from 7% to 15% between 2002 and 2007, by which time 70% of businesses had a website (The Office for National Statistics ONS, 2009). More importantly for this study, also by 2007, 19.3% of all UK businesses (and 68.9% of larger businesses – those with at least a 1000 employees) used automated data exchange, 17.8% (50.3%) automatically integrated orders received with their accounting system while 12.8% (48.5%) did the same for orders placed with suppliers. Secondly, for audit purposes, the implementation of an e-business system can alter the risk profile of the enterprise (The Institute of Internal Auditors IIA, 2003 and Kotb and Roberts, 2011). Although the basic principles and essential procedures underlying the external audit of such entities are not significantly different to those that apply to the audit of other businesses, in an e-business environment economic transactions are captured, measured, and reported on a real-time basis without either internal human intervention or paper documentation (APB, 2001, AARF, 2002 and Chatzoglou and Diamantidis, 2009) and accordingly, the information produced by these systems needs to be audited on a real-time basis (Zhao et al., 2004). Continuous auditing4 and assurance is increasingly utilised by audit firms in the audit of web services such as XBRL-based accounting systems and ERPs (Du and Roohani, 2007 and Vasarhelyi, 2010). This means that a number of audit practices and techniques are no longer ideal or even applicable in an e-business environment, for instance traditional paper-based audit evidence, testing controls and transactions, and the year-end audit approach (Shaikh, 2005, Chou and Chang, 2010, Masli et al., 2010 and Chan and Vasarhelyi, 2011). Such developments imply that auditors have been, and are likely to be, increasingly faced with the need to adopt new audit techniques (Kotb and Roberts, 2011) and employ the use of new IT based techniques in order to accommodate the unique features of e-business. However, the literature suggests that there is evidence that financial auditors are often reluctant or unable to take responsibility for real-time audit and technically specialised IT audit roles are increasingly growing in importance and driving the need for a very specialised IT expertise (Vendrzyk and Bagranoff, 2003 and Brazel, 2008)5 that has not, to date, been a significant part of financial auditors’ education or training (Bedard and Chi, 1993, Albrecht and Sack, 2000, Arnold and Sutton, 2007, Coe, 2006 and Pathak and Lind, 2007). This study sets out to explore the consequences of the delegation of significant amounts of e-business audit work (either voluntarily or under obligation from professional guidance) by financial auditors to IT specialists and the related implications of this for the profession and its traditional jurisdictional claim over the audit process. Drawing on both interview and questionnaire data, this study aims to make a contribution to the extant literature at a number of levels. Firstly, it sheds new light on the e-business audit, an area that is growing in significance and yet remains relatively unexplored in the mainstream accounting-related literature. Although various studies have focussed on the developing relationship between audit and IT (Bierstaker et al., 2001, Matthews, 2006, Curtis et al., 2009 and Omoteso et al., 2010), the impact of e-business on the audit function remains an area ripe for investigation. Secondly, it provides new empirical evidence on the cognitive challenges and changing skills requirements for auditors in a techno-centric environment and on whether or not these are being satisfied. In doing so, it also extends the work of Kotb and Roberts (2011).6 Thirdly, adopting Abbott's (1988) conceptualisation as a platform, this study extends the accounting-related literature focussed on the examination of shifting jurisdictional claims by professional groups in the wake of disturbances to the status quo (Covaleski et al., 2003, Pong, 1999 and Walker, 2004). In doing so, it contradicts the extant literature that so often portrays a dominant expansionist view of a flourishing profession on the rise by exploring a very specific situation in which accountants may potentially lose their hard earned jurisdictional space to another occupational group. Finally, it dispatches a note of caution to the professional associations representing external auditors, who ultimately defend the jurisdictional space occupied by their membership. The paper begins with an exploration of the prior literature and provides an overview of the theoretical context. This is followed by a presentation of the empirical findings and related analysis. The final section draws conclusion from the findings.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Abbott (1988) viewed the creation of professions as the outcome of conflicts centred on the border of a jurisdictional space – a system where occupational groups are constantly striving to expand their own jurisdictional territory at the expense of neighbouring groups and are, therefore, effectively permanently under siege. Abbott's conceptualisation of profession focuses not only on the tasks performed within a jurisdictional space but also on the possession of an abstract knowledge base that is applied to particular cases alongside the instruction of new entrants in the modus operandi of members. In many of the cases seen in the literature, and indeed in the cases offered as examples by Abbott himself, usurpation often involves discord and dispute. Based on the evidence presented here and elsewhere (Samuel et al., 2005), we would suggest that a slightly more nuanced view could be adopted and that professional rivalry does not necessarily always involve a direct challenge or conflict but, rather, there is sometimes potential for a much more subtle usurpation, for instance (as in this case) when a foreign occupational group is invited into a jurisdictional space. As stated earlier, in the study of such cases Abbott asks us to consider: what the external disturbances were and their effects on professional demand and performance; the ensuing changes in knowledge, structure and competitive position; and how stabilities are achieved. In the scenario described in this study, financial auditors have already achieved the right to practice and promote their jurisdictional claim within the field of external audit, having harnessed both public opinion and legal ratification and successfully monopolised a specialised knowledge base appropriate to this field. In this study, we identify the disturbance as being the rise in e-business and the demand for very specific IT skills for conducting the external audit of these e-businesses. In e-business audit, it would seem that rapid developments in IT and its use have superseded developments in the training and education of auditors in a relatively short period of time and has, to some extent, diminished the competitive position of financial auditors. The evidence presented in this study suggests that such skills do not currently fall within the cognitive domain of financial auditors, and in response to this demand IT audit specialists have been invited into this particular jurisdictional sub-space to conduct essential audit-related tasks. Turning now to the issue of how stabilities are achieved. Samuel et al. (2005, p. 253) comment that “jurisdictional ties between a profession and its work drive the rise and demise of professions”. In e-business audit, at least, it would appear that this link has been significantly compromised, as auditors are not necessarily equipped to undertake key aspects of the work, even though they maintain overall legal jurisdiction in this space. So for the present, financial auditors retain authority in this jurisdictional sub-space, even though they do not and cannot always perform the tasks required. A resulting temporary stability is maintained via the co-existence of two different occupational groups within the same space. Abbott suggested that “most occupations fight for turf, but only professions expand their cognitive domain by using abstract knowledge to annex new areas” (Abbott, 1988, p. 102). In this study, we present a scenario in which it is the absence of expert knowledge in the area of e-business audit that has created an opening. Whilst IT audit specialists may fill this opening presently in what is essentially an advisory role, we concur to some extent with Abbott's view that “where there is advice today, there … will be conflict tomorrow” (p. 76). Although accountants have become a powerful social and economic force in society, imbued with influence and status (Cooper and Robson, 2006 and Macdonald, 1995),28 this does not mean that their jurisdictional space is impervious. The knowledge base of the IT audit experts is currently inaccessible to financial auditors, sanctioning them power in the advisory relationship and allowing them to perfectly occupy the jurisdictional opening created by fast moving IT developments. In much of the literature it is generally agreed that “the knowledge monopoly forms the basis of professional power and the core of the concept of profession” (Haug, 1977, p. 217). In e-business audit, the delegation of duties by financial auditors has serious implications for the audit opinion as they are relying on IT specialists but must themselves be adequately competent in the field in order to come to a view on the delegated work. Although, in other areas, auditors do routinely rely upon the work of specialists (for instance, expert valuations), in an e-business environment the degree of reliance is magnified as the amount of IT-related audit work rises. This then has the potential to bring into question the degree to which the financial auditor is able to ultimately accept responsibility for the audit opinion. To date, the chief method employed by accountants (financial auditors) for preserving authority over this space has been public and legal legitimation and the claim to expertise via a monopolised knowledge base. However, given the recent growth of e-business and e-business audit and the inability of the financial auditors to perform some audit tasks without the support of IT specialists (who already have access to this market and some of whom already have training in accounting and audit),29 there is a very distinct possibility that such authority may be open to challenge. Such a conclusion also falls in line with other authors who suggest that professions can lose the predominance that they have earned if jurisdictional boundaries are blurred (Abbott, 1988 and Walker, 2004). This study occupies a unique position in the literature as it analyses a scenario in which there is the potential for professional usurpation in this jurisdictional space, although there is also still an opportunity to influence the outcome – a point to which we now turn. Whilst Abbott refers to the “fall of a profession” and others have referred to “deprofessionalisation” (Haug, 1977), this study stops short of such dramatic conclusions. However, given the growth of e-business and the lucrative nature of the audit market, the question one might well posit is: how well are accountants equipped to defend their jurisdictional space if required to do so? The outcome is, by no means, inevitable. Either IT auditors are set to dominate in the e-business audit environment or the accountancy profession must address the issue by renegotiating the existing knowledge and skills base of financial auditors. Abbott (1988) noted that in claiming a jurisdiction, a profession is asking society to recognise “its cognitive structure through exclusive rights”. However, if its cognitive base is perceived to harbour deficiencies in an area over which it is claiming a jurisdiction, then the profession must act to plug those deficiencies if it is to maintain the status quo. This raises the question of why the UK profession has, thus far, not proactively taken steps to address this perceived shortfall. The reasons for this are multifarious and it would be more meaningful to deal with them in a separate future study, although the issue was touched upon by one of the interviewees (Interviewee B): “It is generally perceived that the members lead the UK profession, not the other way round. Any major shift by the profession would be expected to start and develop following pressure from members. My perception is that in the UK, the Big-4 are global operations and that they will and do compete with each other in seeking to grow their markets. The next tier is far less interested and seems to be waiting before investing heavily in them [skills and services] … and [they] are not doing much to engage with it. Professional accountants in practice earn a lot already. Why should they worry about learning new tricks? It will be interesting to see when the UK CCAB wake-up and drag their members into the 21st century.” Gottliebsen (1998, p. 17) forewarned “… [Financial auditors] will need to invest in the latest technology and have a better knowledge base. If they fail to do so, they too will disappear along with the clients that did not adapt”. In North America, the response has been to endow financial auditors with competence in IT in order to reduce their reliance on IT specialists, particularly in the e-business arena, or at the very least be in a position to make informed judgements about their work.30 Urged by IFAC (1992, p. 2), the UK-based professional accounting bodies might do well to consider the possibility of following suit.