In consulting, work processes and workflow are the 2 most important determinants for productivity and efficiency. The success of a profitable engagement can be determined by how well standardized your processes and procedures are and how well you have adapted your processes to the tools that are available.
The information presented in this article was developed using recommendations from a webinar hosted by Accounting Today and sponsored by Wolters Kluwer. This webinar was presented by Stephanie D. Lanke, CPA, on June 16, 2015. Ms. Lanke is currently a Customer Experience Manager, Accounting and Audit Solutions, at CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business.
Here we shall summarize Ms. Lanke’s presentation by going over 5 tips and tricks that audit reviewers can implement to make the audit review process more productive and effective. Specifically, we will discuss ways to invest in the planning and risk assessment process, how to leverage interim field work, emphasize the importance of thorough documentation, and discuss how to garner the maximum benefits of software.
Invest in the Planning and Risk Assessment Processes
Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This saying holds true in the audit process. It is important to be cognizant of the fact that as a reviewer, time management is essential. Understanding the areas in which your time is best spent is the first key to ensuring that the audit process runs as smoothly as possible. Focusing on the planning and risk assessment process in the early stages of the audit can help to minimize errors and misunderstandings proactively as opposed to attempting to fix errors reactively during the audit.
Having a proper audit plan also allows team members to discuss the risks and relevant assertions beforehand. By knowing what the risks are and by carefully studying the risks involved in the early stages of the audit process, team members gain valuable insight and understanding of the client. This in turn results in overall efficiency.
Leverage Interim Fieldwork
Another very helpful tip presented by Ms. Lanke is to leverage interim fieldwork as much and as often as possible. By utilizing interim fieldwork, auditors can properly balance their work load by incorporating tasks, such as planning, at a time when the work schedule is not as compressed as compared to the busier stages of the audit.
Interim fieldwork can also be used as an opportunity to help prepare clients by ensuring that they are “ready” for the audit. During this time an auditor may communicate to the client the elements of the audit process and the overall expectations. This is also a great time to ask the client for items in advance.
In addition, interim fieldwork can also be used to foster positive relationships with clients. Meeting face-to-face with clients and asking important questions displays a deep level of involvement and helps to show the client the value of your services.
Emphasize the Importance of Thorough Documentation
It is the responsibility of the audit reviewer to ensure that documentation is clear and thorough. Proper documentation ensures that your knowledge and valuable insights are readily accessible and easily understood by peer reviewers and team members even if you are not available. When documenting your insights, you should ask yourself: “Can someone look at this work paper, repeat the process and receive the same results?” In other words, can someone with no prior knowledge of the project follow the documentation without issues?
Thorough documentation means:
- Documentation is defensible—There aren’t any “cracks” in the documentation that may lead to questions or misunderstandings.
- Improved efficiency in subsequent years—Team members who decide to look at previous years’ documentation will have a solid foundation to start with.
- Enhanced understanding of the client—Thorough documentation displays client information that may be helpful for subsequent audits.
Plan to Leave the Field Finished
Many times work is deferred or delayed with the thought of “it can be done in the office.” Leaving the field finished means having to draft financial statements to show to the client before leaving the field, thereby minimizing the amount of work to be done back at the office. Ways in which this can be done are:
- Avoid the “We can do this when we get back to the office” mentality—In some cases getting back to the office on the same day may not always be possible, especially with busy schedules.
- Review the plan prior to fieldwork (real time review)—As the work is being completed, it is being reviewed to ensure that there is still alignment with the planning process.
- Set specific milestones with dates—Determine what is going to be reviewed and when, and stick to it. This gives a sense of urgency for the work that needs to be done.
As previously mentioned, the goal is to provide the client with draft financials as you’re walking out the door. This will demonstrate to the client your commitment to efficiency and in the long run improve client relationships.
Let the Software Work for You
The next tip presented by Ms. Lanke is to let the software work for you rather than work around the software. Firstly, it is important to review and maintain software best practices. Over time software knowledge gets lost or diluted through the non-availability of staff members who received the original software training, or by current staff members who are unaware of software features introduced through updates. Ensuring that current staff members in your organization are adequately trained with the current software being used can lead to greater efficiencies and less misuse of software.
How Can eFileCabinet Assist in Efficient Audit Reviews
On the heels of our previous topic of leveraging software, audit reviews have now been made more convenient with eFileCabinet’s Enterprise Access tool. The Enterprise Access tool is a powerful add-on available to eFileCabinet’s online customers that allows 24/7 access to company files anywhere, making remote audits a reality. With this tool, auditors can approve and perform audits without being physically on site. This minimizes the time, cost, effort, and interruptions sometimes caused by audit reviews.
With the Enterprise Access tool, all company documents can be brought together in a central location with the click of a mouse, no matter the size of the business. This powerful tool is especially beneficial when auditing global companies that may have hundreds of offices worldwide.
eFileCabinet’s Enterprise Access tool is also transparent and non-intrusive, so audit reviews may be performed with little disruption to a company’s day-to-day operations.
To learn more about how Enterprise Access can make your audit reviews more productive and efficient, fill out the contact form provided for a free 15-minute demo.