Blue Data

Blue Data was a  project in partnership with Audit Futures. The brief was to reimagine the role of auditors in the 21st century, in order to solve one of society’s challenges and restore trust and transparency in businesses and institutions.

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

Project Partner: Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
Team: Mariana Pedrosa
Date: January – March 2015, 10 weeks (full – time)

THE CHALLENGE

Reimagining the role of accountants in the 21st century in order to re-create their value in society. Since its beginning, this profession has been mostly driven by tightening regulations, whilst improvements in quality and delivery are marginal or incremental, and it does not respond to what society needs and expects. ICAEW Audit Futures sees an opportunity to change the role of finance professionals as a force for social transformation, developing game-changing ideas that inspire collaboration and build trust.

My role was to facilitate, provoke and co-design with a group of auditors. I used a variety of research methods to understand stakeholder needs, the landscape of trust and auditing services, and the opportunities inherent within new roles and services.

THE DESIGN PROCESS

To redesign the audit profession as a force for social transformation I first needed to understand the challenges that society is facing. I started by questioning myself and analysing my surroundings. What is the actual scenario that we are living in at the moment? What are people’s needs? Where is there a cross or gap for auditors to intervene?

We live in the age of information, and advances in technology and the internet make a big difference in everyone’s life. We are creating and sharing data without even noticing it, for example: social media activity, online shopping behaviour, and geo-location information.

The most important sources of value, like information, are not currently being measured and reported. The value of companies has been shifting from tangible assets to intangible assets, but accounting rules have not kept pace. As the owners of this information, information investors of these companies are not being well informed about its values or how it is used.

We are providing companies with opportunities to understand and gain insights into our consumer needs, preferences and behaviours; a ‘goldmine’ for economic stimulation and increasing profits. In order to remain competitive, companies are becoming more information- centric and they realise the value of information.

Looking for ‘gaps’ and unmet needs in this age of information, I found an opportunity for the auditors to act. Information is the most important asset for companies in the 21st century. How can auditors help companies to manage, measure and report the usage and value of it? How can a balanced and trustful relationship be created between companies and their users?

Three key insights lead me to the service proposition:

1 – Information is an asset and should be used as such: Organisations that are becoming more information-centric should make it a critical function to audit the actual and potential value of their information assets.

2 – The importance of improving our current measuring and reporting system: Auditors need to develop broad skills and competencies in order to understand and measure these sources of value.

3 – If data is the new oil, consumers should be aware of this fact: Companies need to increase their transparency and to better inform their costumers about the usage and value of their information. Once companies have more transparency and control, consumers will become more comfortable with this kind of interaction.

THE OUTCOME

Blue Data is an audit firm that offers data audits, a service that helps companies and users to build a trustful and transparent relationship. It also educates users about the usage and value of personal data through easily accessible and understandable data audit reports, and offers companies advice on how to manage and value their data assets.

How does the service work?

The service occurs via two steps: Value + Trust

Value: this stage is related to the assetisation of information, which takes place between Blue Data and companies.

Blue Data will come to a company and plan, prepare and conduct an information audit, producing a public and visual report that is easy to understand.

Blue Data will take into consideration when undertaking an audit the following issues:

  • the management of information – how it should be housed and protected, who to share it with, compliance with legislation; will develop risk and performance analytics to analyse the process and identify opportunities.
  • the monetary value of information – to perform and deliver a better service, Blue Data auditors are supported by a team of information managers, lawyers, data scientists, computer scientists and data visualisation specialists.This also guarantees that Blue Data can keep following technology trends and never become outdated.

Trust: educating users about the usage and value of information through a transparent relationship between them and other companies. This occurs between companies and users.Companies that have had an information audit can now be easily identified by users and can offer users a better understanding of the usage and value of their information.

Values of the service:

– For auditors:  There are significant strategic, operational and financial reasons to measure the economic value of information. This solution for Blue Data will be a new service which will be in high demand, and will develop into one of their most important service offerings in the future.

– For companies: You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and an organisation will not know whether it’s spending too much or too little on information security without quantifying the value of its information. It will help companies to demonstrate their overall corporate wealth and health to the board and investors. Finally, it will strengthen the relationship between companies and their customers.

– For users: It will provide awareness of how companies use and value their data, and will allow them to understand what role they play as a customer of the company. In addition, it will enable them to make more informed decisions.

EXTRAS

As a continuation of this project, the students involved were invited by ICAEW Audit Futures to be part of the Future Audit jam, which continues this exploration of the future of the accountancy profession. We assisted in the workshop preparation and during the event each of us acted as a workshop facilitator for a group and guided them through the design thinking process. We also had the opportunity to be involved in a round table discussion and to present the outcomes of the project described above.

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© 2019 Mariana Pedrosa

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