Team Composition and Labor Allocation in Audit Teams: A Descriptive Note
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionManagerial Auditing Journal. 2019, 34 (5), 514-544. 10.1108/MAJ-08-2018-1986
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe, illustrate and provide a deeper understanding of team composition and labor allocation in audit teams by quantifying the exact value of resources at different levels of the audit production. Audit teams have been considered as a black box in audit research. Therefore, this paper reports descriptive statistics on (levels and proportions of) hours and costs allocated to auditor ranks (and the number and value, i.e. billing rates, of auditors for different ranks and the entire team) to shed new light on audit teams. Design/methodology/approach This study uses a proprietary data set containing disaggregated information on hours, costs and billing rates for each team member in each of 908 audit engagements. The data are provided by a Swedish Big 4 audit firm. The study uses a purely descriptive approach and categorizes auditors into seven ranks. As size and the publicly listed status are crucial determinants of audit production, the paper splits engagements in public and private companies and reports statistics for size quartiles of both public and private clients. Findings The paper provides descriptive statistics for (1) client size, (2) audit team members, (3) audit hours, (4) audit costs, (5) proportion of audit hours, (6) proportion of audit costs, (7) billing rates and (8) variation of billing rates. Results show that compared to private clients, the audit firm allocates higher effort from auditors in higher ranks and lower effort from auditors in lower ranks to public clients. Another finding is that allocation varies with client size for private clients, but less so for public clients. Originality/value In an area with sparse literature, this descriptive study serves as a first step to improve our understanding and guide future research. It provides concrete support for previously known theory.