Audit Workflow: Moving Beyond the Tax Department

In the last few years, many firms have been re-evaluating their audit workflow processes in an effort to improve audit quality. Several new audit tools help firms focus their expertise where it’s needed most. However, these tools are insufficient for improving audit workflow for a number of reasons. Many of the inefficiencies audit teams experience happen outside the audit itself – in the operational and administrative tasks that go along with every audit. To minimize these operational difficulties, firms should consider workflow tracking and project management software. A digital workflow system can help improve audit workflow in a number of ways.

Standardize audit processes

Accounting firms thrive on standardization. But while workpapers and audit procedures are heavily standardized, the processes around  them are often left to chance. Standardized processes from client intake to invoicing can create more consistent audits. As a result of a defined set of worksteps, everyone working on the engagement understands what steps the team has completed and what they need to do next. This helps audit quality, and enables firms to bring on new staff or shift staff to different teams when needed. In addition, electronic route sheets are more convenient for staff working in the field.

Monitor engagement progress

Tax departments aren’t the only teams that have deadlines. Anyone responsible for client work needs to be able to monitor the progress and status of the engagement. When teams are working in the field, staying informed is even more difficult. A cloud-based workflow system can help managers track the progress of an engagement, from anywhere. Better audit workflow tracking can help teams stay ahead of deadlines, identify bottlenecks and plan for staffing requirements.

Smooth the handoff of projects between teams

In a busy firm, all of the moving pieces must stay in sync to keep projects moving. Handing off work from one team to another is a potential stumbling block that can bring everything to a halt. A workflow system used throughout the firm can help teams stay informed. For example, if the tax team knows that the assurance team has encountered delays on a financial statement they need for a tax return, they can more easily plan around the delay. Conversely, if the assurance team doesn’t know the tax team needs something by a certain date, they might inadvertently cause a delay.

The full scope of audit workflows

A digital workflow system can improve almost any process. For audit teams, the standardization and collaboration benefits are particularly important and often overlooked. And while engagement management software is a necessary part of performing quality audits, firms shouldn’t ignore the work that goes on outside the actual audit procedures.

To learn more about how workflow software can help throughout your firm, download the whitepaper, “Connecting the Dots: Technology, Processes, Staff Retention and Client Satisfaction.”


Aimee Hall

Product Marketing Manager at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting

All stories by: Aimee Hall