Everyone is talking about automation. But while many firms have already begun to automate their tax workflows, automated audits are still in their infancy. Audits are more labor intensive and require a good deal of professional expertise. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be automated. Fully automated audits may be a long way off, but there are a lot of steps that can be improved along the way.
Designing a process for automated audits
- Gather. Firms can use highly automated audit tools like CCH Audit Accelerator to get audit data into the engagement management system. But firms can’t automate all of the data collection (yet). Using client portals and an electronic engagement organizer can help firms request and receive all of a client’s documents. As you collect source files, store them in a document management system until you’re ready to create or roll-forward the engagement binder.
- Monitor/Collaborate. During the audit, teams must stay informed about what steps they’ve completed and what they need to do next. A workflow management system can help audit teams work more efficiently and keep track of project milestones. A digital route sheet, accessible from within the engagement management software, can help work move through the process and even capture time more accurately.
- Deliver/Store. Once the audit team finishes the audit, firms can deliver the work product to clients via a portal. Storing everything in a document management system provides advanced search capabilities for future convenience. A document management system can also help firms automate and comply with document retention policies.
- Bill/Invoice. Onscreen billing is a an important and often overlooked part of automated audits. Although the audit may be complete, there are still many opportunities to improve efficiency. In addition to a flexible billing and invoicing system, workflow management software can help keep this part of the process on track. Deliver the invoice and accept electronic payments via a client portal to reduce turnaround time even more.
- Analyze. If you’ve been tracking your projects and time effectively, you’ll have all the data you need to analyze your audit workflow. Choose KPIs to monitor, identify roadblocks and bottlenecks, and discover areas for improvement.
Prepare for change
Because technology is rapidly changing, designing a system for automated audits will require firms to constantly evaluate and alter their audit workflows. To stay efficient, firms should expect their workflows to change as they refine their tools and technology. Automated audits won’t replace auditors, but they do have the ability to make auditors more efficient than ever.
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.”