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How to Prepare for a Successful Remote Audit

This blog was written and produced by Leah Fallone, Manager at The Bonadio Group. Looking to get in touch with Leah? Reach out today: lfallone@bonadio.com.

Preparing for an audit can feel daunting and overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be a painful process for you or your organization. With many of us working remotely these days, here are a few things you can do to help prepare for a seamless and stress-free audit process.

Communication

Now more than ever, regular communication is paramount - whether it’s establishing goals for your team, coordinating adequate resources, or disseminating your organization’s response throughout this constantly evolving pandemic. Moreover, it’s equally important to establish effective, frequent, and clear communication with your audit team to ensure a productive, successful, and transparent audit process especially while most are working remotely.

The first step to establishing clear communication throughout the audit process is developing a formal timeline with your audit team. Confirm that the timeline is reasonable and attainable for everyone within your organization. With the shift to working remotely and the disruption of COVID-19, it is crucial to evaluate audit readiness. The timeline is a key to the long-term success of an efficient and effective audit. Important dates, deadlines, and meetings must be clearly defined within the timeline so that progress can be evaluated along the way. While unexpected events are bound to arise, especially given the current environment, consistently revisiting and re-evaluating the timeline and current status are important steps in working towards the ultimate success of the audit.

Regular Meetings

The second step to ensure clear communication is to schedule regular meetings between key employees and the audit team. In a traditional audit process, the audit team members may engage with personnel onsite to discuss questions or open items. With teams working remotely, it is imperative that time is scheduled for meetings with management and the auditors so that discussion of open items and audit progress is understood by all. Instead of traditional phone calls, scheduling regular video conferences to guarantee that the check-ins are effective and productive. Nothing beats that face-to-face contact. These status meetings can be daily, weekly, or whenever it is considered appropriate; each organization’s needs are different, and your auditors are there to work with you to achieve a successful, stress-free audit.

Enable Your Auditors

As you prepare for a remote audit, it is important to take a step back and evaluate how the process has traditionally been performed. Where can innovative changes be made and how you can enable your auditors to streamline the process? It is increasingly important to evaluate the most efficient and productive ways to fulfill audit requests. How can you think outside the box?

Take time to review the Provided by Client (PBC) listing of requested items and reach out to the audit team for clarification, as needed. Make certain that all pertinent team members have access to the electronic portal where documents can be securely shared with the auditors. These online portals can also act as the central location for all requests. The portal is great for tracking completed, in-progress, and not yet started items. Once you take time to look over the PBC list and discuss any questions with the audit team, start to brainstorm how these requests can be filled in a non-traditional way. A key part of audit procedures is often to review documents onsite, meet with groups within the organization, and go over hard copies of supporting documentation. It’s important to think about these requests, and the documents being reviewed, and to plan for how these items can be addressed in our current remote work setting.

One possible way to enable your auditors and satisfy requests would be to schedule virtual conference calls with the ability to share screens between parties. You can work with the auditors to review audit documentation virtually, at scheduled times, similar to when the auditors were onsite. A second way to enable your auditors is by giving the audit team (limited) remote access to certain systems within your organization. There is often an option to allow restricted access to systems for auditors to log in and obtain the documentation needed. Not only does this minimize the burden on key personnel within the organization, but it enables to audit team to efficiently work through questions or follow-up on specific items on their own.

Work with your audit team ahead of time to identify areas where they traditionally would need to be onsite. Maximize technology and get creative to help foster a successful audit environment!

Stay in the Know

These are challenging, ever-changing times. COVID-19 has presented unique concerns and has forced executives to think quickly and make timely decisions to fortify the sustainability of organizations while prioritizing the physical and emotional well-being of employees. Through all of this, it is critical to make sure you have the most up-to-date information driving your decision making. Your auditors are your trusted business advisors. Utilize them and reach out with any questions or concerns. New accounting pronouncements, as well as, legislative and regulatory requirements may affect your organization’s current year audit.

In preparing for the audit process, expect auditors to ask for an evaluation of events that have occurred subsequent to yearend as a result of the global pandemic. Accumulate this information for the auditors ahead of time. It may include subsequent loan borrowings, emergency funding, and/or an evaluation of the state of operations.

As your auditors, we value your time, we understand your business, and we appreciate the complexity that everyday challenges bring. This virus has created even more unique challenges, making proper education even more essential in the ongoing success of the audit process. To help you in this step of the process, Bonadio has announced the launch of our new microsite: bonadio.com/covid-19. This site is dedicated to all COVID-19 related articles, press releases, resources, events, and more. Staying up to date and ensuring you understand the impact of this crisis on your organization now and in the future is a key factor to a successful audit process. We are here to help.

While it is difficult to predict exactly what the coming weeks and months will bring, organizations must be able to adapt and embrace the mindset that there are new ways to accomplish their goals. By redesigning what the audit looks like during this time, you will see innovation and growth that carry on far beyond this crisis and lay the groundwork for successful audits in the future.

The information and advice we are providing for this matter relates to COVID-19 legislative relief measures. Because legislative efforts are still ongoing, we expect that there may be additional guidance and clarification from regulators that could modify some of the advice and information provided to you, after the conclusion of our engagement. We, therefore, make no warranties, expressed or implied, on the services provided hereunder.