The speed at which society integrates new technologies today is astonishing. While the many possibilities of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have long been known, we are now seeing real advances in the opportunities these technologies create.
"The pressure on companies is increasing. Both external and internal challenges mean that organizations need to become increasingly flexible and transparent. First and foremost, companies need to take into account what is happening in their sector and what innovations are coming to them in their industry. In addition, regulators and governments are imposing more regulations than ever before. Furthermore, as a company you should ask yourself what data and technologies you integrate into your daily operations. Modern companies see this growing complexity as an opportunity to transform. Because if change becomes a constant, as a company you will have to find an appropriate answer to the associated challenges and you will have to cultivate a culture of change in your organization," says Öztürk Taspinar, Partner Digital Transformations at KPMG Belgium.
According to Peter Van den Spiegel, Partner at KPMG in Belgium and Head of KPMG Lighthouse, the general awareness of new technologies such as AI and robotic process automation (RPA), has changed significantly in recent years." Aside from the tremendous progress in the underlying technological possibilities, this is mainly due to wider adoption and acceptability by the general public. AI can no longer be disconnected from our daily lives. Just think of the weekly playlist that Spotify suggests for you or the recommendations you get on Netflix. Companies are now also thinking a lot more about what these technologies can do for them," says Van den Spiegel.
Being able to measure and optimize processes and outputs automatically becomes crucial for the survival of companies. Smart organizations are therefore looking to the future.
For example, there is a lot of progress in the tax and audit landscape. Are we evolving towards fully digital, automated, real-time tax and audit processes?
On the horizon
Advances in technology, such as robotics and AI, are disrupting classic business processes in all sectors. For example, the use of technology increases the transparency of the tax and audit process. In the tax landscape, technology can ensure that taxes are calculated and reported more efficiently. It is also an important driver for auditors to improve audit quality. However, technological and digital progress can go much further than the current well-known benefits. In fact, the interdependence between companies, their systems, their data and their customers, partnerships and governments will continue to grow.
In the future, technological and digital advances could, for instance, enable real-time access to tax data allowing for real-time analysis. Enterprises should bear in mind that the government may demand more and more transparency and higher quality data provision from organizations in the coming years. "In other European countries, we are already seeing connections emerging between company systems and tax authority systems. While this may still be on the horizon in Belgium, organizations are already preparing for some sort of direct link between the government and the underlying data of their tax processes," explains Frank Vancamp, Partner Tax & Legal at KPMG in Belgium.
In the audit landscape, we cautiously see the same trend towards real-time reporting. "We are taking more and more important steps towards a 'continuous auditing' story. Now that repetitive, time-consuming tasks are increasingly being replaced by automated processes, the focus for auditors is shifting towards a 'no-surprise' audit. Using data, AI and robotics, we are able to identify focal points for our audit clients in a timely manner throughout the year. Our innovative audit platform KPMG Clara helps us to build a daily connection with our audit clients. It is a collaboration tool that centralizes all data in one environment. In addition, a number of automated routines have been developed in our workflow so that our auditors can fully focus on the tasks that create added value," says Jeroen Trumpener, Executive Director Audit at KPMG in Belgium.
The human-technology blend
Peter Van den Spiegel adds: "Sustainable use of AI requires, above all, trust and transparency from all internal and external stakeholders concerned. It is a difficult balancing act to determine precisely where the boundary of transparency lies. A company has to ask itself how far it wants to go in sharing the underlying models, especially in the context of fraud prevention, compliance detection and tax returns. There is therefore a need for a clear framework that takes into account the human and ethical principles and legal requirements, but also offers sufficient transparency regarding the way in which models and outcomes are created. We notice that government bodies, at both regional and European level, are taking the necessary steps to establish such an ethical framework. However, companies and organizations shouldn’t wait for this before taking the first steps themselves".
As there will be more and more links between companies, governments, auditors and tax professionals, the processes and data flows between tax, audit and technology departments will also become increasingly intertwined. When implementing new technology, there are many important components to take into account, such as strategy and data management. Nevertheless, organizations should not lose sight of people management, governance and security.
"It is important that technology is seen as a tool and not an end goal. There is an absolute need for a human component within all processes. This means that a human view is needed to control and interpret the reliability of AI and robotics-generated output. It is no longer sufficient to simply have a team of tax or audit experts. A good team is multidisciplinary and includes data scientists and technical profiles," says Frank Vancamp.
The KPMG approach
By working with multidisciplinary teams, KPMG is able to offer appropriate solutions for every business problem." We look beyond the branch, audit or technology perspective and bring all stakeholders around the table. Together, we map out the global process and investigate where process improvements can be made and what technological tools are needed", Vancamp explains.
The shared, holistic insights of audit, tax, advisory and KPMG Lighthouse, a competence center around data & AI, provide a global overview that can be a real driver for change and transformation. "KPMG's open mindset ensures that technology and innovation are at the center of everything we do. We also notice that our next-gen technological insights often inspire our customers to work on technological changes themselves," Trumpener concludes.
KPMG supports numerous organizations worldwide in their digital transformation. Our integrated approach and methodologies and our Connected Enterprise model can help you better align your entire organization to respond appropriately and positively to a changing business landscape. “If you want to survive in a digital world, you have to dare to co-create and experiment," concludes Taspinar.
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