The complexity arising from COVID-19-related effects has transformed how companies operate — and this implies that it has to change the future of audit work.
The sudden transition in March 2020 made by many companies to work remotely to meet regional and local shelter-in-place guidelines has speeded up the development and use of technology to enable communication, collaboration, and productivity.
When and where auditors operate has changed, when technology is utilized and how we interact.
Future of audit
More remote audit teams
Remote work is not fresh or unique to recent developments — however, Flexjobs notes that “42 percent of people who are 100 percent remote have confirmed they have been operating remotely for even more than 5 years.” We recently asked auditors about the future of work in the midst of the disease outbreak. A May 2020 survey conducted by AuditBoard with more than 1000 respondents found that 41 percent of respondents expected to return to the workplace in the third quarter of 2020, more than 30 percent anticipated a return in the fourth quarter of 2020 or later, and almost 15 percent expected to operate remotely in the near future.
Increased workplace flexibility and adaptability
It isn’t just about how the job gets performed, it’s about what position auditors will have to play. We have heard auditors talk about attending pandemic Business Continuity Planning (BCP) or meeting COVID risk assessment.
As audit resources are being provided to management for a range of new, and often unknown, initiatives, auditors are finding that by becoming more adaptable as they adjust to today’s auditor’s fresh insights and functions.
The new realities also pose problems for auditors seeking to juggle their jobs and their personal lives. Remote auditors, like most professionals, deal with other family members at home, shift jobs, childcare shortages, and other logistical problems, needing a more flexible approach to handle various situations.
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Larger investment in enabling technology
While most businesses are using various technologies to interact around the business, some of the auditors we talked to believe accounting departments and their audit teams should have been adequately equipped from a technology point of view. Dealing with network control limitations and sluggish response times also affected the ability to effectively audit. We have also learned from auditors that they did not know how much paper they depend on, which is a concern because lockout measures make it difficult for documents to enter the office.
Using a safe shared drive is a move in the right direction and with this method, there will be certain drawbacks and practical complexities. Some auditors said their team members are now beginning to look at audit platforms to help them encourage remote collaboration and standardize and automate workflows, risk management, SOX compliance, and holistic reporting.
Navigating everyday work and working together
While conflicting goals, team management with an ever-increasing workload are normal, during a pandemic, these problems are exacerbated. Establishing an efficient audit system in the midst of restricted access to and from control owners and auditors, the failure to conduct fieldwork on-site, unproven remote testing techniques and a lack of simple documentation in some cases forced teams to reconsider processes and procedures from the ground up.
Not unexpectedly, the coordination which occurred during regular in-office encounters and face-to – face interactions is missing from a common concern for auditors. While trying to replicate this while remote has been a bit successful, many are looking toward at least some in-person interaction throughout the near future. Of course, auditors and workers would not be able (or willing) to return to the workplace in masses until the regulatory bodies and companies figure out a way to minimize the risks of working close to others effectively.