Auditing relies on two things more than anything else: having access and being in person. 2020 had other plans.
Forced out of offices and forbidden to travel, auditors and firms across the globe have needed to adapt quickly to the world of remote work and all the issues that come with it. Unlike other industries in which professionals can communicate with clients spontaneously and across mediums, auditing is a challenge because it requires meticulous planning, precise attention to detail, and very little room for error. Additionally, auditors work on schedules often set by stakeholders who require on-time reporting.
Despite the headwinds, the industry has adapted by forging solutions that meet the moment and allow continuity of the important work that clients demand. As the field stares into an uncertain future that will certainly include more remote audits, below are three impacts the shift will have on the industry, and how professionals can cope with them.
Planning Has Never Been More Important
Planning is a cornerstone of the audit process but comes with a new emphasis as auditors engage clients from a computer screen rather than face-to-face, with the reason being that remote audits simply take more time and preparation. One of the realities that the industry faces is that even though deadlines, for the most part, have remained the same, it is easier for clients and auditors alike to lose track of timetables when the work is done on a computer screen.
Mapping a detailed strategy for a remote audit is one of the best ways to combat this. Firms must take on the role of managing deadlines and lay out, step-by-step, what will be needed and when. This involves outlining the required time, technologies, and personnel needed for the audit. In many cases, auditors will also need to factor in potential issues that may arise during a remote audit and the time it will take to solve them appropriately.
Video conferencing and digital workflow tools have burst onto the scene across every industry, and auditing is no exception. Even though auditing is an in-person task by nature, many in the field who have been forced to work remotely have found that technology does an amiable job at filling in the gaps of the pandemic.
Tools like Zoom, Skype, and RingCentral have simulated the “real thing” to the best degree possible. The video conferencing tools allow auditors to meet one-on-one with key client stakeholders and gauge their body language and reactions in a way that is impossible over the phone. With the tools also being mobile, companies can take auditors on a virtual tour of facilities via the cameras on their phones, allowing almost the same level of transparency as someone would get if they were in person.
Workflow tools have also been key to filling in the gaps. Trello, Teams, and Suralink are tools that store information and materials in the cloud, where they can be accessed, edited, and commented on by any client or coworker, anywhere. Although there is no substitute for the dialogue that comes with in-person auditing, these tools have broken down many of the barriers that once made it necessary for auditors to be in the same room as their colleagues and their clients.
Making sure that all the technology is secure is another task unto itself, and the steps to do so are another thing that has entered the sphere of remote auditing. With the increase in online reviews as a result of the pandemic, confidentiality and security have never been more important. It’s critical for auditors and firms to maintain the technology to protect sensitive information.
Firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and dual authentication applications are a strong first step to increase security measures when working remotely. Creating and defining secure communication channels and cloud storage both internally and externally is also important. Ensuring that client information is protected during remote audits is a new frontier that the industry and everyone in it are tasked with addressing.
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If you have any questions about remote audits and how to adapt to this new way of doing business, please contact us. We look forward to speaking with you soon.