Big Blue this week announced a partnership with KPMG, a tax, audit and advisory firm, to use Watson on KPMG's professional services offerings, including auditing services. On its own, KPMG had already joined the "cognitive era," which IBM CEO Ginni Rometty calls the present-day IT environment, where systems have begun to "think" for themselves. Indeed, KPMG has implemented several projects that tap into cognitive technologies.
For instance, KPMG has developed a secure, online due diligence platform called Astrus, which harvests and analyzes vast amounts of data to identify integrity and reputational risk issues on third parties around the world, Steve Hill, U.S. head of innovation at KPMG, told eWEEK.
"The insights we're deriving from Astrus technologies are built on top of IBM Watson and have made us more efficient and are improving every day," Hill said. "IBM Watson technologies improve the quality of insights and reduce the amount of time we need to spend in primary research. In just a matter of minutes, analysts have access to material that helps them delve more deeply and effectively into analysis of a subject."
More recently, KPMG engaged IBM Watson to build a prototype of how to use cognitive technologies in auditing a financial institution's various credit rating processes, Hill added.
"As part of that program, the IBM Watson tool will ingest large quantities of credit file materials and be taught to make judgments that will augment our auditors' ability to test our clients' controls around credit risk," he said. "Watson technology will allow application of the judgments to a much larger portfolio of credit files than we ever could perform manually, and will deliver a list of exceptions on which we can follow up. The results have been very impressive, which lead us to a large scale adoption."
"The cognitive era has arrived," said Lynne Doughtie, KPMG chairman and CEO, in a statement. "KPMG's use of IBM Watson technology will help advance our team's ability to analyze and act on the core financial and operational data so central to the health of organizations and the capital markets."
KPMG's alliance with IBM is the audit firm's oldest alliance, dating back 10 years. Together, the companies have collaborated on hundreds of engagements with many of the world's leading businesses. This new relationship with IBM Watson builds on the ongoing collaboration and is a critical step forward in KPMG's cognitive technology journey, Hill said.
Cognitive systems like Watson provide a natural language interface between humans and machines, so users can directly query the system in natural language, be understood and get responses based on insight gleaned from massive amounts of data the system has ingested and analyzed.
"A lot of accounting services, including audit, tax, advisory leverage what are sometimes called 'judgment-driven' processes," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "Meaning they rely on the experience and judgment of individuals to provide accurate guidance. But financial professionals are under the same 'bandwidth' challenges as the rest of us who deal with ever growing volumes of increasingly complex information."
However, digging through and making sense of complex data is what Watson is made for, King noted.
"Plus, the platform's natural language interface should make it a great fit for those whose professional skills outweigh their IT abilities," he said. "Keeping Watson in-house could certainly provide value to IBM in terms of competitive superiority and market positioning. But the platform is likely to drive far more revenues as the engine or brain beneath a growing range of service offerings, including the ones envisioned by KPMG."