Saad Maniar, managing partner of Crowe Horwath UAE, examines recent strategic alliance announcements involving professional services firms and some of the world’s leading technology businesses

The just ended month of September witnessed a number of professional services firms announcing strategic alliances with some of the world’s leading technology businesses.

Here’s a snapshot. Apple and Deloitte announced a deal to team up in order to accelerate business transformation on iPhone and iPad, while BDO revealed a worldwide strategic alliance with tech giant Microsoft, a move that aims to help the digital transformation of their clients’ businesses.

At the same time, PwC and GE Digital agreed to form an alliance to help organisations harness the power of the Industrial Internet, while Accenture and Google announced plans to jointly develop cloud solutions to help clients improve business performance.

Crowe Horwath on the other hand, has cut a niche in the financial technology business by deploying its IT practice to help companies overcome today’s challenges such as systems security, regulatory compliance, fraud, anti-money laundering, protection of consumer information, operational and third-party risk, among others.

Quality of audit

This paradigm shift is a clear testament that the future of audit, advisory and consulting is clearly undergoing digital transformation, which is greatly needed in order to provide the businesses of the future meaningful analytics, automation, deliver additional value-added services, as well as improve internal efficiency and the quality of audit and advisory engagements.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how disruptive technology and innovation is increasingly becoming a game-changer in today’s global competitive business environment, a phenomenon that clearly demonstrates the future of auditing is more than just the numbers. It highlights that now, more than ever, technology is radically causing a shift, enabling us perform a more comprehensive audit and provide clients with more actionable insights, in order to counter the disruptive nature of possible competition.

Businesses across the globe are undergoing digital transformation and these alliances are part of a broader strategy of harnessing joint power to develop the frameworks and tools to provide clients with leading technology, data and insights, to help them thrive in the digital age and capitalise on market disruption. With deeper insights at their disposal, auditors are now better positioned to deliver a more effective quality audit.

Privacy and security

By taking a broader focus that encompasses operations, compliance, and non-financial reporting issues, through the use of data analytics and other advanced approaches, internal audit can provide value-added services and proactive strategic advice to the business, and provide deeper, more actionable insights into their financial statements and controls.

In particular, Industrial Internet, or the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) –  a term that is used to describe anything and everything that is connected to the Internet and able to communicate with other ‘smart’ devices – is seen as vital to the turnaround of businesses. It’s a profound transformation in how man and machines interact with each other. However, key challenges that have come with such innovations include areas such as privacy and security. In this atmosphere, internal audit has been thrust into the spotlight, as market pressures for constant technical evolution and persistent IT security threats require us to provide IT and information security assurance.

Of course with these advances in new technologies — such as the cloud, analytics, mobility, artificial intelligence (AI), technological vulnerabilities are likely to expand exponentially. The question for us in the financial services industry is how we should respond to this growing phenomenon, as such innovations have come with new risks. As disruptive innovation continues to transform industries, the role of Internet of Things’ in internal audit and compliance is crucial as it helps in identifying those risks that emerge.

Certainly, the biggest risk to organisations that do not evolve or innovate, is the risk of failing to respond to disruptive competition. With technology as an enabler, auditors can now analyse larger volumes of audit-relevant data that allows for targeted analysis of potential anomalies and risk areas, thereby supporting clients through transformational change and providing new ideas and innovative thinking to contribute to their commercial success.

The professional services market is in a constant state of change and these worldwide partnerships with technology players will no doubt accelerate the transformation of clients’ businesses across all areas of operations and industries.