The Record Issue 13: Summer 2019

52 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om P ROF I L ED : BDO B eing a future-focused global accountancy, auditing and business advisory firm, BDO is keen to explore how open innovation and artificial intelligence (AI) can help it transform. To find out, it joined the Chamber of Commerce Business Challenge, an open innovation initiative in the Netherlands that brings corporates and start-ups together to address new challenges. Late in 2018 BDO set its challenge of building an Audit Intelligence Robot to enable innovative ways of doing audits – and AI business integration spe- cialist Cnext stepped up to help. Auditing is based on customer data, but the way that data is collected and processed requires huge effort and it hasn’t changed much in dec- ades. The BDO Audit Intelligence Robot brings innovation to the audit process. “We believe that data can get us an advantage in an increasingly competitive world,” says Marcel Donkers, corpo- rate technology and innovation officer at BDO. “When data analytics and structured process- ing comes into play, the real potential of data is unlocked. To achieve that, it’s crucial to master technologies such as AI and machine learning.” At the heart of the challenge is BDO’s goal of anticipating the ways it can use AI to automate processes and make the best use of its client data. “As a big corporate, we at BDO need to learn more about open innovation initiatives, how we can be more successful as a network and how we can collaborate with start-ups and third parties that offer specific expertise we don’t have,” says Donkers. “Our company and our profession is going through digital trans- formation and we need to be creative. We need to anticipate emerging trends and technologies and translate them into a BDO context so we can optimise our audit process based on the data platform we currently have.” Rising to the challenge, Cnext is building on the existing technology of BDO, which is a stra- tegic partner of Microsoft and an early adopter of its technologies. Cnext’s expertise is prov- ing invaluable in combining enterprise-grade Microsoft Azure technologies with open source frameworks to enable a future-proof platform for business and innovation. “We are building on the information and tech- nology that is available within BDO,” says Peter Van Kerkhove, CEO of Cnext. “The main technol- ogies we’re using include Microsoft Azure Data Lake, Azure Data Factory, Azure Databricks and Azure Machine Learning. Microsoft also provides ample space to fit open source and other software BDO is collaborating with Cnext to anticipate how data and artificial intelligence can empower the business Accelerating innovation BY J ACQU I GR I F F I THS