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Remote Auditing: A Brave New World

7/15/2022

When the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns started to affect businesses, we all had to figure out a way to do things online. At 415 Group, that meant working from home, virtually interacting with clients, and testing new ways to complete audits from a distance.

Matt Campanale, senior manager at 415 Group, discusses how this opportunity to change workflow affected the firm and our clients.

Before the pandemic, our team worked regular hours in the office every day. However, the waning pandemic has forced us to rethink work-life balance, even when we had a good handle on the concept. Now, everyone has the opportunity to work from home a few days a week.

After implementing virtual options for working remotely, 415 Group is now fine-tuning the process. We utilize Microsoft Teams for video calls and internal messaging. By implementing our new policies for Teams, we make sure everyone is available at necessary times and able to communicate whether in the office or at home.

Many of our clients are also benefiting from virtual options. For example, in-person audits would involve members of our team being on site for a week or more. Now, we can virtually complete much of the fieldwork in order to decrease drive time and prevent getting in the way of our clients during audits.

During the first year of the pandemic, we tested 100% virtual inventory observations. One of our clients allowed a member of our team to be on site and go through the process of a remote inventory audit procedure. During the practice run, our team member acted as if they were the client while counting inventory on a video call with our office.

Even though this process went well, we wound up not needing to utilize it for most of our clients. Coronavirus restrictions were ever-evolving at the time, but with available personal protective supplies (PPE) and a better understanding of the situation, we worked with our clients to do inventory audits in person or through a hybrid process, in which most of the team stayed at the 415 Group office or worked from home, while select team members were on site to observe the audit. On the other hand, we realized 100% virtual audits are a great option for out-of-state clients versus hiring a firm local to them to assist.

Another virtual option we implemented was online client request software. Now, instead of dropping off or mailing documents, clients can log in and virtually submit them. The secure software keeps track of what has been submitted versus what is still needed. Our team and clients appreciate this streamlined process.

Before the pandemic, virtually conducting business was always something that was “in the near future.” Now that we have all been forced to figure out virtual options, the firm and clients alike have adapted to new methods. And yet, throughout all of these changes, our team still prioritizes effective communication with our clients.

At 415 Group, we’ll continue to evolve as society changes, whether from outside forces or advances in technology. If you’re interested in working with us, contact us today. We’d love to share more about our audit and accounting processes and how they can benefit you and your business.

The pandemic has presented numerous challenges for businesses, but it also taught us how to be resilient, cost-conscious and adaptable. Over the last few years, we’ve learned that remote working arrangements offer many benefits, including reducing the time and cost of performing many tasks.

Here’s how these lessons translate to the work auditors do to prepare your company’s financial statements.

Transitioning from on-site to remote procedures

Traditionally, audit fieldwork has involved a team of auditors camping out for weeks (or even months) in one of the conference rooms at the headquarters of the company being audited. Now, thanks to technological advances — including cloud storage, smart devices and secure data-sharing platforms — many audit firms conduct certain auditing procedures remotely, rather than sending auditors on-site.

For example, drones and video-conferencing technology can be used to observe physical inventory counts, eliminating the expense of sending auditors to facilities that store inventory. For companies with multiple sites, performing this task in-person was costly and difficult to schedule, especially around the holidays.

In addition to saving time and audit fees, allowing auditors to work remotely improves the work-life balance for auditors and in-house accounting personnel. Your employees won’t need to stay glued to their desks for the duration of the audit, because they can respond to the auditor’s inquiries and document requests remotely.

Facilitating remote work

The transition to remote audits requires flexibility, including a willingness to embrace the technology needed to exchange, review and analyze relevant documents. You can assist the transition process by:

Being responsive to electronic requests.

Auditors who are out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind. Answer all remote requests from your auditors in a timely manner. If a key employee will be on vacation or out of the office for an extended period, give the audit team the contact information for the key person’s backup.

Giving employees access to the requisite software.

Sharing documents with remote auditors may require you to install specific software on employees’ computers. But your company’s policies may prohibit employees from downloading software without approval from the IT department.

Before remote auditors start their work, ask for a list of software and platforms that will be used to interact with in-house personnel. Give the appropriate employees access and authorization to share audit-related data from your company’s systems. Work with IT specialists to address any security concerns they may have with sharing data with the remote auditors.

Tracking audit progress.

With less face-to-face time with your auditors, you’ll have fewer opportunities to receive updates on the team’s progress. Ask the engagement partner to explain how they’ll track the performance of their remote auditors, and how they plan to communicate the team’s progress to in-house accounting personnel.

Right for your business?

Remote audits have become popular, but not every audit firm or business is ready to fully embrace remote auditing. Contact us to discuss ways to make your company’s next audit more efficient and cost-effective.

© 2022

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