Audits in Accounting: Improving Audit Quality with Data Analytics

AICPA introduced data standards to be used for data requests and to ensure production of standard reports from the ERP systems.

Another challenge is the integrity of data fed into the analytics systems, as this determines the quality of the end results. Systems used should be designed around collecting meaningful data. Auditors must also ensure that the conclusions fed into the systems are accurate and correct.  

Although data analytics reduces the sampling risk, it introduces the challenge of getting numerous exceptions, mostly referred to as outliers, that produce results outside audit expectations. This calls for auditors to investigate the exceptions/outliers to determine if they are errors or misstatements.

Conclusion

Integrating data analytics into the audit process greatly improves audit quality and credibility. With rapid advancements in technology, the capabilities of data analytics will continue to evolve, making auditing work even more efficient while maintaining high quality.

Although the adoption of data analytics is dependent on the size of a business, availability of skilled staff is also crucial. To remain relevant in a fast-changing environment, auditors need to advance their skills to effectively use the data analytics tools.

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How AI Chatbots are Transforming Businesses

Markets and Markets, the conversational AI market is expected to grow from $4.8 billion in the year 2020 to $13.9 billion by 2025.   

AI Chatbots in Business

AI is no longer reserved for large enterprises only. Small businesses can now leverage conversational chatbots on applications such as Facebook.

The demand for chatbots has been driven by customers who need round-the-clock assistance from businesses. In most cases, businesses are slow to adapt to new technologies – especially because of the related costs. But the many benefits of AI chatbots make it worth adopting. Below are some of the ways that AI chatbots are being used in businesses:

  • Customer inquiries – The bots help reduce customer service workload and can serve customers outside typical working hours. This means there is no need to struggle to manually respond to inquiries as the AI chatbots can be used to automate customer feedback, including in emails. The customers also no longer have to wait a long time to connect with a customer care representative.
  • Personalizing interactions – conversational AI helps personalize interactions relevant to each user. AI chatbots learn the behavior of a client to provide personalized conversations.
  • Data analysis – Businesses have a greater understanding of their clientele once the conversational data is analyzed.
  • Sales representatives – they offer product suggestions for customers who are not sure what they are looking for.
  • Lead qualifying – instant feedback helps keep a prospect interested and eventually turn them into a paying customer.
  • Candidate vetting – Interested applicants converse with the AI chatbot, which then helps to filter for new hires.
  • Free HR staff time – for businesses that have many employees, the conversational chatbots help answer employee questions depending on their job function, geographical location and date. It’s also useful in reminding employees of tasks that need to be completed. This frees time for the HR staff to concentrate on other tasks that help improve job satisfaction and reduce staff turnover.
  • Increased engagement – the ability to answer emails and queries instantly helps keep the customer engaged. This enhances a business brand differentiation.
  • Fast information retrieval – a human can take a long time to retrieve information, especially for an e-commerce or real estate business. AI chatbots easily connect to the database and provide feedback in real-time as they serve as an internal knowledge base.
  •  Integration with other applications – AI chatbots are integrated with robotic process automation, enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management systems to carry out further tasks. Such tasks include booking appointments, filling out forms and making recommendations.
  • Easy scalability – chatbots handle multiple conversations simultaneously. This means that even when a business grows, the bots still handle large volumes of chats without affecting business costs.
  • In digital marketing – businesses are using AI chatbots to support the collection of customer data, new product launches, lead generation, and to increase brand loyalty.

Conclusion

AI technology is continuously progressing and no doubt chatbots will also keep changing.

As with every technology, there are some limitations, such as lack of emotional intelligence that affects the depth and scope of a conversation. This means that there are still complex communications that will require humans.

Nonetheless, having AI chatbots as an additional resource to run a business is a sure way to help boost revenue, improve customer experience, and provide a competitive advantage.

However, before jumping on the bandwagon, it is best to first identify areas in your business where you can deploy AI chatbots.

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Exploring Brain Computer Interface: Tech That Connects to Your Brain

techImagine using your mind to control machines, or your employer reading how you feel in real time from a dashboard? This is the future of BCI technology.

Do we really need this technology? What are the potential benefits and possible implications of this emerging field?

What is BCI?

Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is also referred to as Brain Machine Interface or Neural Interface.

Wikipedia defines BCI as a direct communication pathway between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device.

The brain is said to process billions of bits of information per second and runs on electrical signals that could control electronics, and BCI attempts to create this connection.

The BCI technology that connects internally (invasive BCI) or externally (non-invasive BCI) to the brain is meant to read brain activity and process it to information and even transmit information back to the brain.

Although this research began in the 1970s, the first neuroprosthetic device to be implanted in humans was done in the mid-1990s. Currently, large tech firms and a good number of startups are already working on producing cheaper, safer and more accurate BCIs.

The hype around BCI has been pushed by advanced modern computing, data science, machine learning and neural networks. A combination of the brain and artificial intelligence would surpass human capability.

Applications of BCI

BCI is already used in medicine to measure brain signals for medical applications such as cochlear implants, which are used by individuals with hearing deficits. These implants translate audio signals to electric pulses that are sent directly to the brain.

Other uses in medicine include detection and diagnosis, such as forecasting and detecting abnormal brain structure and other brain disorders such as epilepsy.

According to researchers, BCI could even replace lost functions, such as speaking or moving and general control of the body. This is beneficial to people with different forms of longstanding paralysis, such as that caused by a stroke.

BCI would also help improve quality of life for elderly patients, especially due to changes in memory and brain function as a result of aging. Assistive BCI would help those suffering from motor control impairments to control home appliances in a smart home.

BCI in Business

Although initially meant to help in medical issues, other applications of BCI are emerging. Several companies and startups are exploring application of BCI not related to medicine. These fields include:

  • Marketing – to help measure attention levels of commercial and political ads, with an intention to optimize the ads. Companies will benefit from brain data as it will help increase product or service personalization.
  • Workplace analysis – to help improve performance at work. This is possible using headbands that measure mental fatigue, the cognitive state, stress levels and focus levels. As a result, the work environment would adapt to employee stress levels and thoughts. For drivers operating dangerous machines, BCI will help analyze signals of drowsiness and give an alert or stop the machine to avoid accidents. Employers could use BCI when evaluating, monitoring and even training employees.
  • Education – to help teachers personalize their interaction with students depending on the students’ ability to grasp concepts.
  • Entertainment – BCI offers an immersive experience with the ability to control avatars in video games using thoughts. It would be possible to produce games that respond to the mood of players and their attention level, thus creating a personalized experience.
  • Military – to help in controlling or piloting a swarm of drones.

BCI Challenges

It is reasonable to have technology that improves the quality of lives for people who have disabilities. But when it comes to augmenting functions of a physically fit human, this technology raises ethical concerns and debates.

First, who will own the data produced by our brains? We already have cases of personal data generated on the internet that is being sold. How safe would the data be that is generated by BCI; especially considering that BCI is invasive and involves sensitive personal information such as feelings, moods and emotions.

The thought that a third party can access your personal data without your knowledge brings up questions of privacy. Another person would know exactly how you feel at a given time; and if companies were to roll out the use of BCI, what rights would employees have?

What would happen if the BCI device is hacked? Brain data could be intercepted by hackers who would then know more about you than you’d want to share.

Human augmenting will also give unfair advantage over those who cannot afford BCIs; and at some point the efforts to transcend human limitations could be a disaster.

More potential risks include people being controlled, misuse by rulers, psychological harm, unknown long-term mental effects, and physical harm such as brain damage or hemorrhaging in cases of invasive BCI.

The Future of BCI

The BCI technology offers many benefits. But before actual BCI systems reach the market for consumer application, the risks and unknowns can’t be ignored. This begs for a plan on ethical and policy issues. Business leaders also should start considering a BCI strategy as well as new BCI business models to balance the potential benefits and address the risks.

Avoid Wasting Money on Digital Marketing with These Tips

tech

In last month’s article titled “How to Make the Most of Digital Marketing,” we examined how digital marketing can help your business grow. Unfortunately, this involves more than waving a magic wand. You can either choose to do it yourself or hire an agency to do it for you. Either way, if it’s not well done, you could end up wasting a lot of money with no return on your investment. 

Indeed, any business will want to implement a system that promises to grow revenue. But the biggest mistake is to dive into a scheme that you don’t understand well. Understanding the potential of digital marketing and how you can deploy it effectively will significantly help meet your revenue goals.

Tips to Avoid Losing Money in Digital Marketing 

Here are some tips to help you effectively target your audience and eliminate wasteful spending in your digital marketing efforts:

  1. Create a Strategy
    A digital marketing strategy serves as a guide to what you should and shouldn’t do. Invest in marketing that is in line with your mission and goals. And then be ready to make improvements and adjustments because the digital market is always changing.
  2. Understand Different Platforms
    Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, whether you’re looking at LinkedIn, Facebook, Google ads, etc.
  3. Use Good Content
    People will easily trust the content that is engaging and adds value in some way. No matter the quality of your product or service, terrible content will cause you to lose potential customers. Always remember your content is a direct reflection of your brand. 
  4. Ads 
    When you run ads, they will be displayed when there are searches on the internet relating to what you have advertised. This costs money. To avoid paying on unnecessary clicks or views that don’t convert to leads, run targeted ads. You can also use negative keywords, geo-targeting, or influencers. Keep in mind that any platform offering paid promotion options has as its default to spend your budget as fast as possible (they are in business, too).
  5. Track Your Results 
    Track your results on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This is the best way to know if you are wasting money. Measure and track your campaigns to understand how much you are making off any campaign. For every single $1 spent, if you are not making any returns you need to rethink your strategies. Note that it could take 60 to 90 days to get enough data for proper analysis.
  6. Avoid Buying Fake Followers
    This is simply a bad idea because you will get little or no return on your investment. The fake accounts will be inactive, and hence no engagement or sales.
  7. Test 
    Carry out A/B testing for anything you want to put out there to your target audience. Be it content, emails, newsletters, social media posts, campaigns or ads, testing will save you from marketing with low or no returns.
  8. Add a Call to Action 
    What do you want an interested reader or viewer to do: make a call; fill out a form; subscribe; make a purchase; or visit a website?
  9. Don’t Ignore Existing Customers
    Approximately 40 percent of business revenue is from returning customers. Specifically target this group with offers, new products or services, or just wishing them well on holidays. 
  10. Don’t Hire Bad Marketing Consultants
    Finally, you might decide to outsource the marketing if your business doesn’t have employees with the necessary skills, or if it’s overwhelming for your staff. Whatever the reason, don’t make the mistake of hiring bad consultants.

How to Make the Most of Digital Marketing

techDigital marketing is not a new phenomenon. However, new realities imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of digital marketing for businesses. Basically, digital marketing revolves around using digital channels to advertise. Such channels include mobile devices, search engines, social media, websites, email, and others to help reach consumers. The purpose is to create a relationship with potential online customers to influence their buying decisions.

Why Digital Marketing

For starters, with digital marketing, you are able to personalize your marketing and target your ideal audience. It offers the ability to target an audience based on location, age, preference, and other specific details that define the intended consumer of your product or service. In the end, you don’t waste money on audiences that might not even buy your product or service.

With the availability of artificial intelligence, it’s easy to identify trends, carry out competitor research, and accumulate data that aid quick decision making. This kind of marketing is data-led. Considering that five to 10 hours of a person’s day is spent on the internet, this creates an opportunity to familiarize consumers with your brand and create relationships that lead to sales.

What’s more, chatbots are available on business websites or social media accounts to answer customer questions even when the business is closed. This means a customer visiting your page does not leave without some information that could help in their purchasing decision.

In addition to being able to expand your reach at a lower cost, your business can enhance brand loyalty by maintaining personal contact with clients even after making sales.

The best part of digital marketing is the ability to track the results of your marketing in real-time. 

How This Can Help Grow Your Business

First, digital marketing gives all businesses a fair share of the market. Today, a business can connect with customers cheaply over posts on social media.

What this means is that a business can instantly communicate with customers to inform them of their products or services and get instant feedback.       

Don’t ignore the fact that people today get information from the internet. A lot of purchase decisions start with an online search. A potential customer expects to find information regarding your products on a website, social media, or from reviews by other users.

Customers also want to determine if your business and products are a good fit for their needs.

In the event that they cannot locate your business, you will lose a potential client to a competitor.

A good online presence can help potential clients find you and possibly even become customers.

How to Get the Best of Digital Marketing

The good thing about digital marketing is that it will exist as long as people are using technology. The trick is to use strategies that help you stay ahead of the competition.

Digital marketing has been proven to be the best strategy to acquire new customers as well as maintain a relationship with existing customers.

One of the hard and fast rules about digital marketing is that no one strategy fits all businesses. Digital marketing is constantly changing – meaning that businesses have to make frequent changes to their strategies.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, you can take advantage of referral traffic as it gives credibility to your brand. This is possible by connecting with industry leaders in your niche.

You can’t afford to ignore analytics. Analytics help you discover what is working and what is not working.

Use high-quality content to draw the interest of potential customers. Sacrificing quality for volume can cost you potential leads.

Select social media platforms where your potential customers are likely to be. Understanding your target market will help you reduce the time and cost spent on digital marketing, as you will be able to follow your clients where they hang out.

Digital Marketing is the Way to Go

As long as the internet continues to grow, businesses have little choice but to get involved in digital marketing. Gone are the days when social media was considered merely a place to pass the time.

For some business owners, it might be challenging to know where and how to start, considering that digital marketing is quite an extensive field. The most important thing is to establish a goal for what you want to achieve. If not well done, it can cost your business a lot of unnecessary expense.

Robotics Carves Out Niche in Various Businesses

techAway from the movies, robots are becoming a reality in everyday life.

Robots have played a major role in manufacturing industries to perform basic tasks that are either dangerous or laborious for humans. As technology becomes relatively cheaper – through the availability of components such as processors, sensors, batteries, and cameras – robots are now making an entrance in industries apart from manufacturing, such as in marketing, inventory, telecommunications, and entertainment.

Why Robotics in Business?

To avoid confusion, it’s important to mention at this point that robotics often refers to software configured to carry out tasks done by humans, so it’s not always about physical robots.

Businesses are under endless pressure to be more efficient and reduce costs. As a result, many are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to take up repetitive and routine tasks that don’t require frequent updates. RPA has been useful to take care of things such as call center operations, help desks, customer service chatbots, expense management, data entry, onboarding employees, and scheduling systems, among other tasks that are repetitive, rule-based and structured.

This is important for businesses as it frees employees from mundane tasks so they can focus on high-value work.

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored as an accelerator for robotics in the business environment. Consider businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, and all others seeking alternatives that will withstand disruptions and at the same time are durable and adhere to hygienic operations.

An Exciting Yet Worrying Phenomena to Some

Many people accept the use of intelligent systems and small robots such as robotic vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to the workplace, employees often don’t accept such systems as they are considered threats to their jobs. However, there is little difference between the robot used for household aid and the intelligent production system.

Financial institutions have been on the frontline in implementing robotic process automation. This has enabled them to automate and build platforms for the front office, back office and support functions. For a business, this means reduced costs while achieving efficiency and accuracy.

Another interesting concept is: robot as a service (RaaS). This is aimed at enabling small- and medium-sized businesses to enjoy the benefits of robotic process automation when they lease the services of a robot rather than incur the cost of purchasing one and handling maintenance for the system. It also helps businesses experiment with different robotic solutions.

With such innovations, businesses have no option but to adapt to technological advances. As a matter of fact, the possibility of robots taking up full process tasks is feasible with big names such as Bill Gates voicing support for a robot tax (a levy on work done by robots in a bid to replace tax that collected from work done by humans).

Be Prepared

So how do businesses handle this trend? Both employees and employers have no option but to be prepared. For an employer considering robotics, this should be done gradually with clear guidelines that the systems are only to assist and not replace the employees. At the same time, employees should be involved in the early stages of developing the new systems so they get accustomed to the format and avoid later resistance.

As businesses seek to improve their processes, employees should be ready to learn new skills as some duties are replaced by robots. It also goes way back to the education system, where students should be encouraged to take up subjects that will help enhance their digital competence. It will also prepare them for new job structures.

A Word of Caution

RPA has enabled business processes to evolve. Its results provide better accuracy, lower cost, efficiency, and high productivity. However, entrepreneurs should not rush to implement the robotic process automation without proper research. Although it is praised to reduce labor costs and other benefits already mentioned, the implementation – if not well done – will fail.

A big mistake would be to assume that the installation of robotic systems is easy. This is especially true when a business concentrates on ROI rather than solving actual problems.

Robotics for businesses involves time, cost, and complexity. It is not about moving processes into RPA as they are; only with lean techniques can this be successful.