Spreadsheets are an indispensable tool, but many times they’re the wrong tool for the job—especially for mission-critical control activities.
When information is shared and requires collaboration, or if there are processes that need to be controlled, using spreadsheets to manage them, while a common choice, is the wrong choice. They slow down workflows, consume too much time, require detailed tracking, and are difficult to substantiate during an audit.
For collaborative enterprise-level tasks like SOX compliance, the right choice is moving toward sustainable compliance. In this blog, we share four compliance imperatives to adopt if your F&A organization is still using spreadsheets.
Simplify Your Processes
To achieve sustainable regulatory compliance while maintaining quality, companies need to work smarter, not harder. One way to simplify your compliance processes and reduce reliance on spreadsheets is to condense the number of necessary controls. This can be achieved by creating high-level controls, which will lower the need for additional supporting controls and testing.
Companies can also look to design accounting processes to eliminate extraneous controls. For example, having IT systems manage accounting processes and related data from end to end ensures data integrity and doesn’t require additional validation checks.
Spreadsheets complicate controls and SOX compliance because they are time-consuming and breed errors. By simplifying your system of controls, you can eliminate unnecessary spreadsheets used to document and evidence control operation and effectiveness.
Standardize Your Processes
Standardizing processes minimizes complexity and promotes more consistent and effective compliance with SOX. It also reduces the effort needed to sustain compliance, because controls are easier to administer and audit.
While relying on spreadsheets makes it difficult to achieve consistency, software has defined workflows with established rules, roles, and responsibilities to ensure that controls are executed consistently.
Centralize Your Controls
Centralized controls, policies, procedures, workflows, and compliance-related data facilitate audit and oversight because only authorized people can make changes. And because F&A technology can flag new changes, reviews only need to be made by exception.
Additionally, having an enterprise file cabinet helps ensure that the most current version of a control or its related policy or procedure is being referenced.
With software, this type of documentation is available read-only to auditors, which helps save time during an audit. It also speeds up processes and makes updates easier—a change only needs to be made once in the system and then it will be propagated to documents across the company.
Spreadsheets, on the other hand, are islands of information that only provide the illusion of centralization when they are rolled up into a company-wide view.
Certify at the Point of Control
To be most effective, the testing, validating, and certifying of a control should be done by those closest to it. With this method, those most familiar with the control are doing the work, spreading workloads across a larger number of people.
A dedicated application with workflows to administer and delegate process execution can handle any volume of certifiers. Companies using spreadsheets may limit the delegation of work because it’s too hard to administer the process, reviews, and data collection.
As finance and accounting departments assemble a business case for investing in software for managing SOX compliance, they should include in their assessment the value of the software that goes beyond efficiency. Replacing spreadsheets with a well-designed software application will provide executives with greater confidence in the quality and accuracy of financial statements.
Watch this webinar to learn more about how to effectively achieve sustainable compliance and make the business case to your organization.