It’s possible to find a cloud software vendor that is nimble to user feedback for its programs to boost efficiencies

By David Knoble, CPA, CGMA (SCACPA Member since 2010)

Today’s auditing requires more of everything – more efficiency, more flexibility and more professional judgement. One of the top items small firms miss in performing attest work is proper planning and risk assessment. AuditFile addresses all of these items in a flexible cloud solution that my firm has come to rely on for our financial statement work.

All functionality aside, two important facets of cloud software for our firm are support and uptime integrity. We need to work when we want to work, and we need help when something unexpected occurs. The AuditFile team proved they have both areas covered. Using an internet browser with built-in Excel and Word sessions means different devices work. I have used my Apple MacBook, Apple iPad and Microsoft Windows computers. Don’t laugh, but sometimes I review staff work on my iPad with my early morning coffee while still sitting in bed.

Their support has been exemplary. Every now and then I get a dialogue box that tells me something didn’t work right. I can keep working, and soon will get an email from AuditFile telling me they see I encountered an error and they are looking into it. Equally as critical as support is development. As an experienced auditor moving from paper to paperless and then to cloud, I understand certain aspects of attest work. We spent a few months testing a Review engagement and 95% of our suggestions were implemented – most in a very short timeframe.

After having spent 10 years on a Citrix platform with a major U.S. company that serves CPAs, I had forgotten what great support felt like. Broken patches, downtime at critical dates, program bugs and support representatives that say “I don’t know why” are now problems of the past. It amazes me how some companies have great products and decide to put them in the cloud, removing the efficiencies that made them great.

Ingenious Innovation in One Place

AuditFile allows us to spend more time thinking and less time administering. Work programs have always been individual steps that are supported by documentation. We open and close a work program with 30 steps scrolling through to see what still needs done. Reviewers wait until the work program is available, because sharing a document with write privileges is difficult at best. No longer.

This is an area AuditFile has provided ingenious innovation. Each area of an engagement is a collection of individual work program steps, not a separate file that must be opened and closed. So, every work program step is available to every engagement member all the time. Preparing and reviewing happen in real time as work is done. I call it “just in time” auditing. AuditFile has cleverly built progress bars into each area and summaries at all levels to indicate how much is prepared and reviewed. Keeping up with our status comes with a glance, not 30 minutes opening and closing Word files to see what’s done. Even better, you can customize your own engagement setup and edit the specifics if needed for each engagement.

Tools that used to be manual spreadsheets and Word files are built into AuditFile. Preliminary and final analytical reviews by account are created on the fly, allowing instant recording of expectations and results. Materiality functions are built in and materiality is shown at the top everywhere in the engagement, allowing much faster analysis of audit issues. The entire risk assessment process is summarized in a screen that allows flexibility of adding control areas, memos, walk-throughs and internal control testing. The linkage to the audit areas is shown in each substantive area.

Hyperlinks abound, connecting data and information throughout the engagement. My brain had to adjust from thinking in a linear fashion of pages in a book to just doing work and clicking on what I need.

Integration with outside sources is well done. We were able to import a Xero client’s trial balance, and then every lead schedule had links back to the transaction detail in Xero. Click and review data, saving an Excel sheet or PDF to pull into the Workpapers. Gone was the idea of searching through a general ledger.

Status is available at a glance. Review notes are red until resolved and show up at the work program step so that staff can easily resolve them. If a step is reviewed and later changed, a bright message shows up that must be cleared by the reviewer. Firm Word and Excel templates can be added to a work program step with a click, and once they’re added, work papers can be referenced anywhere in the engagement. Each work program step has the ability to create a “finding” that is collected at the bottom of the engagement. Recording and tracking issues to report to management is easily captured when the work is being done.

Choose to Think Globally

Additional sign-offs can be created by engagement area. We use a quality control review for certain parts of each engagement, so we created a third sign-off in those areas, proving we were performing our quality control review. While you can use the peer review ready Wiley work programs, you can add your own custom items or replace them with something else of your own entirely – it’s your choice. Speaking of peer review, AuditFile has a built-in ability to add a peer reviewer login, allowing them to view closed jobs without the ability to change anything. Remote peer reviewing and protection of your data is baked in.

There is no question that your brain will need to shift in how you process work. But as you begin to think globally about an engagement rather than linearly, you will find a free-flowing ability to complete an engagement more thoroughly and with less time finding out what is and what is not yet done.

The work flow is organized in a sensible order – Planning, Substantive, Completion – but once you start working, the information you need is available with a click.

Attest work has gotten exciting again. I look forward to the new features this creative team adds to a great platform.

About the author: David, who is a founding member and partner of Knoble Ingle CPAs in Rock Hill, has more than 25 years of experience as a North and South Carolina CPA, as well as a BS in Business Administration and Masters of Accounting from Kenan-Flagler at UNC Chapel Hill. His ‘Big Six’ audit experience and real-estate experience as the CFO of a $100 million company, assisting in the ultimate sale of the company to a southeastern regional builder, has given David significant industry experience. He is a SCACPA Board member and vice chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee.