Using Electronic Audit Workpaper Systems in Audit Practice: Task Analysis, Learning, and Resistance

33 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2006

See all articles by Jean C. Bedard

Jean C. Bedard

Bentley University - Department of Accountancy

Michael Ettredge

University of Kansas - Accounting and Information Systems Area

Karla M. Zehms

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Accounting and Information Systems

Date Written: March 2006

Abstract

While many audit firms have adopted electronic systems for workpaper preparation and review in hopes of improving both efficiency and effectiveness, prior research shows that the expected gains may be difficult to achieve. In order to investigate possible sources of difficulty in full use of these systems in audit practice, this paper identifies individual task components involved in workpaper preparation and review. We assess the relative difficulty of performing the individual component tasks, and examine the "learning curve" by relating difficulty ratings to performance frequency. We also assess which component tasks are more difficult in an electronic versus a paper environment, and measure auditor resistance to the electronic system after one to two years of use. Using survey data from auditors at an international audit firm that recently adopted an electronic workpaper system, we find that tasks involving "navigation" around the electronic system (e.g., agreeing lead sheets with workpapers) are the most difficult for auditors to accomplish. Audit managers and partners express greater difficulty with the electronic system, and report using fewer of the capabilities of the system, relative to staff and seniors. Finally, we present reported incidence of "working around" the system, including behaviors such as creating review notes and storing workpapers outside the system. The difficulties that we document present possible implications for complying with professional standards such as Auditing Standard No. 3, on audit documentation. Our results are useful to audit practice in targeting training efforts, and to research in providing topics for study of decision improvement.

Keywords: Auditing, Audit Workpapers, Systems Implementation, Technology, Training

JEL Classification: M49

Suggested Citation

Bedard, Jean C. and Ettredge, Michael L. and Zehms, Karla M., Using Electronic Audit Workpaper Systems in Audit Practice: Task Analysis, Learning, and Resistance (March 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=934201 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.934201

Jean C. Bedard (Contact Author)

Bentley University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02452
United States
781-891-2410 (Phone)
781-891-2896 (Fax)

Michael L. Ettredge

University of Kansas - Accounting and Information Systems Area ( email )

1300 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66045
United States
785-864-7537 (Phone)
785-864-5328 (Fax)

Karla M. Zehms

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Accounting and Information Systems ( email )

School of Business
975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-234-1052 (Phone)
608-265-5031 (Fax)

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