As we settle into our ‘new normal’ following the events of the last couple of years, a question on many businesses’ lips is how to approach their audit now that it seems hybrid working is here to stay.
When we first went in to lockdown back in spring 2020, the majority of audits were forced to be completed remotely, which was a new experience for most. Whilst initially this could have been perceived as a positive step, dragging (some) accountants kicking and screaming in to the 21st Century and finally letting us out of the tiny cupboards we so often inhabit during the onsite audit, the reality was a little different.
Generally speaking, auditors and clients alike encountered increased inefficiencies as a result of their audits being completed remotely. At the time it wasn’t clear to what extent this was a logistical issue driven by the lack of physical proximity as compared to a side-effect of there being other, bigger problems on most people’s minds; the business impact of COVID, staff sickness, supply issues, and home-schooling challenges to name a few.
It is only now, as hybrid working becomes more normal and some people are contemplating whether they will ever go back to the office full-time, that we can look to separate the remote audit from the realities of lockdown.
For some businesses, it makes the most sense for their auditors to come back out onsite as they always did, with easy access to paper documents and the ability to speak to several different team members at relatively short notice. There is also the increased perception from both clients and auditors that the audit is a higher priority when everyone can see the work being done to progress the job in real time.
However, some businesses have changed their processes as a result of the various lockdowns to such an extent that the audit would run in largely the same way whether onsite or not. With electronic storage of documents, cloud-based accounting systems and team members working remotely we are more connected than ever before.
The key driver for efficiency in any audit is effective communication between all members of the audit team – both those from within the audit firm and those from the client business. Provided all members of the team can continue to connect throughout the job, all documents are accessible when required, and all parties have clear expectations as to the ongoing progress, it shouldn’t matter where the individual team members are based.
Ultimately, it will be a case of determining what works best in each individual circumstance and for each business. This is an ideal opportunity to adapt processes that the pandemic has helped to highlight as open to development.
If this is an area you would like to explore further, please do get in touch with me.