The brainchild of Cleven D’Amato, Founder and Managing Director of A4 Services, and graphic designer Jean Vella, Sheetsway is an online platform intended to reduce the legwork associated with auditing and to produce more rigorous results. Leaving the world of paper mountains, Microsoft Excel and email reliance behind, it has the potential to transform the auditing process with automation that offers auditors economies in time and effort.
Sheetsway is powered by a combination of AI’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR), paired with other innovative technologies working in tandem. Among its many benefits are three particularly impressive USPs that could prove indispensable to auditors:
- An inbuilt ‘AI generate’ function that aids the risk assessment planning, fieldwork and completion stage with risk-focused questions relevant to a client’s particular industry.
- Full scope capacity to automatically handle higher transaction volumes than is currently possible, making small dataset sampling a thing of the past and rendering more accurate outcomes.
- Reduction of the total audit completion time leading to improved output, freeing auditors up for other work.
Sheetsway was inspired by Cleven’s wish to address the industry’s supply and demand gap regarding skilled auditors. While solving the auditor deficit was beyond his control, Cleven, an accountant-auditor and external reviewer by profession, thought it might be possible to reduce the gap between supply and demand. With his interest piqued by the base technology that founded ChatGPT’s rollout and already aware of the absence of auditing software in Malta, he considered “if there was a way to make the audit process itself more efficient through interactive software, more adaptable to local laws and regulations and even less repetitive”.
Cleven approached former classmate Jean, confident their respective careers boasted skills that could be combined to create this solution. While Cleven thoroughly understands the requirements and challenges of auditing, Jean brings user interface and user experience smarts to the table, ideally positioning him to build a tool with superior navigation, appearance and functionality.
They started researching AI, the new (initially intimidating) kid on the tech block and discovered that NLP and OCR could be the key to developing their idea.
The driving principle was to remove major obstacles faced by the profession (especially with the shift from compliance focus towards a risk-based approach) and to upgrade traditional working models. Cleven describes two industry challenges.
Currently, auditors are limited to obtaining only certain invoices and sections of data deemed relevant as one auditor cannot analyse a large company’s entire general ledger or account balances. A company with €2 million in sales revenue, 60,000 transactions and 6,000 invoices presents a volume too high for traditional methods to process efficiently. In practice, auditors typically select a variable percentage of invoices for consideration, based on the specific needs of the audit, which often means leaving out a considerable portion of the data. However, Sheetsway can scan and read hundreds of invoices and documents almost instantaneously, eliminating this problem.
The labour involved in recording documentation is another issue. At present, auditors must wade through physical and digital documents and email printouts/attachments, reference them, record relevant data and then toggle back and forth between various costly software and paperwork to locate specific items whenever they are needed. This, however, is history with Sheetsway's cross referencing. After uploading and linking documents via the auditor portal, any element that needs accessing is available and viewable with just one click.
Given the many moving parts, a brief overview is best here: The platform comprises three areas - an audit portal, client portal and workspace, all integrated to accelerate communication, simplify repetitive tasks and avoid human error. The design prioritises visually clear, intuitive menus and layouts to ease navigation.
The audit portal is designed like a dashboard (Wordpress users will recognise a similarity) and, among other functions, enables correspondence with the client via the latter’s own portal. Instead of relying on email exchanges, documentation requests are generated by the auditor portal, automatically showing up in the client portal for them to take action. When the client sends the necessary documents, these land in the audit portal library.
The function of the client portal is to interact with the auditor. Finally, the workspace is similar to Excel or Google sheets. It contains all functions and formulae for performing calculations, facilitates hassle-free document referencing and features essential options utilising OCR and AI for completing financial audit tests. All sections are interlinked, enabling every data item from documents in the audit portal to be retrieved and reviewed in the workspace.
Thanks to how the sections speak to each other, information is easy to gather, identify and use; there are also many customisable features. Critical components including profit percentage updates and financial statements are all calculated, produced and analysed within the platform. Clicking on infinite open windows to find information and perform necessary tasks becomes redundant.
In short, Sheetsway promises workflow nirvana to its users.
As for the technology, Jean explains that OCR scans numbers and letters to form text but “only dry reads the data and cannot understand what the words mean”. That is where AI comes in. Combined with OCR’s data extraction ability, NLP (the AI technology used to build ChatGPT) introduces decision-making properties. Now the data is not only captured but also fully understood and usable by the system.
A4’s belief in their product is palpable and shared their excitement at recent conferences in Barcelona and Prague, discussing how this technology is adaptable for different industries. Cleven sees beauty in Sheetsway’s practicality: “Its user friendliness and chatbot assistance guiding users through the process makes it ideal even for the less experienced auditor,” he explains. Meanwhile, Jean highlights the supersized impact of fusing tools: “When we combine these two tools together, along with other leading technologies, we create a bigger, more powerful tool.”
An invaluable addition to their team has been Dhruv Aggarwal, who joined their journey a bit later but has been monumental in shaping Sheetsway's development. Leading the software development, Dhruv has not only invested his expertise and resources into the project but has also enriched their venture with his deep understanding of AI development. His commitment has been evident through their daily meetings and the warm hospitality given. Dhruv's genius in AI has been the cornerstone of their endeavor. With his support, Sheetsway is meticulously engineered to address every pain point Cleven identified in the auditing process, ensuring the software is finely tuned to the auditor's needs.
As with any innovation, Sheetsway has seen many developmental ups, downs and changes. It has involved a steep learning curve on regulation, industry impact of AI implementation and A4’s own place in that. Via external user testing, the technology is continually being trained and improved to reach error-free status.
ISO certification, adherence to official accounting standards, two-factor authentication and zero third party employment (external applications or extensions) are proof of commitment to security and full compliance of the quality assurance process. No data sits with A4, residing solely on the client’s servers. AI is only used to drive certain parts and is totally omitted from confidential data.
Pricing is under discussion. A token system is being considered where customers buy tokens for each engagement individually, or in bulk at a lesser cost. Once the audit is complete, that token expires and another one is required to execute a new audit. Customers will retain permanent access to all completed audits. This pricing approach, given the small scale of their endeavor, gives them an edge in the market, offering an “unmatchable balance between functionality and cost”.
If their product takes off in the way Cleven and Jean are confident it will, the duo might be a perfect example of synergy and synchronicity: two brains coming together to take an industry into exciting new territory.
“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”, says the famous quote. Auditors wondering how they ever lived without Sheetsway might just agree.
(Left) Jean Vella and Cleven D'Amato