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Tax & AccountingNovember 29, 2021

6 Habits of Highly Effective Audit Teams: What You Need to Know to Improve Quality and Efficiency

By: Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting

Years ago, there was only one approach to auditing available to most accounting firms—it involved lots of paper and a checklist. Over the years, the profession developed new and better ways to drive the consistency, quality, and efficiency needed to conduct a successful audit. In addition to using technology to automate audit workflows, the most effective firms advanced several proven habits that result in better audits.

One of those successful firms is WithumSmith+Brown, PC (“Withum”), a top 30 accounting firm serving clients with tax, accounting, and advisory services from 16 locations. When considering a high-achieving, tech-savvy firm like Withum, it’s tempting to steer the conversation to advanced audit techniques or cutting-edge software. Beneath all the complexity, however, are a handful of fundamental habits that are the true drivers of the firm’s success.

In this white paper, Partner and CIO Jim Bourke of Withum outlines the six habits that serve as the foundation of his team’s consistency, quality, and efficiency. They also describe how they use technology to complement those habits, not take their place.

Six Habits of a Highly Effective Audit Team

To be a successful audit firm, adopting these six key best practices is a necessity.

  • Train and retain staff
  • Know your client and your industry
  • Standardize and automate your end-to-end workflow
  • Define the review process
  • Ensure client readiness
  • Leverage data analysis

In this post, we’ll examine why it’s important for firms to improve staff training and retention, as well as how to incorporate this into your current audit workflow.

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Best Practices For Training and Retaining Staff

Finding and retaining highly skilled staff members is a significant challenge for many audit firms. It’s one of the major challenges currently facing the accounting industry today as the older generation ages out and new accountants join the workforce. Losing staff members results in less consistency, high recruiting costs, and more onboarding time where staff members are not yet fully productive.

Additionally, to keep productivity humming, it’s essential to help staff members of all levels build their skill sets to grow with the firm over time. That’s why Bourke says Withum invests significant time and energy in training:

“We spend a ton of time and effort keeping our staff engaged, even our young staff. We train from day one with onboarding training that includes everything from audit to tax to technology…You must train staff in order to retain staff.”

When retaining staff, it’s necessary to create a positive environment that empowers people to reach their career goals. That’s why many forward-thinking firms train staff to be equipped for niche engagements and teach them about the unique issues facing that industry. Another best practice is conducting ongoing lunch-and-learns and making training available on-demand over the web so staff can refer back to it as necessary.

Standardize and Automate End-to-End Workflow

Another habit that goes hand-in-hand with staff training is standardization. Standardizing your binder and workpaper templates for each industry group ahead of time helps provide consistency across the firm as well as with the onboarding of new staff. Bourke explains, “A standardized binder ensures that the audit team doesn’t miss something specific to an industry.”

It’s also essential to maximize software automation capabilities to drive quality and efficiency. Jim Bourke and his team at Withum trust Wolters Kluwer’s Integrated Audit Approach for their audits. The technology pieces adopted by the firm include: CCH® ProSystem fx® Knowledge Coach, CCH® ProSystem fx® Engagement, TeamMate® Analytics, and CCH® Accounting Research Manager®

Read “6 Habits of Highly Effective Audit Teams” to learn more.

Read the white paper in its entirety to learn the six habits that serve as the foundation of audit consistency, quality and efficiency. Find out how Withum uses technology to complement those habits, not take their place.

Download the White Paper Now

Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting

Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting is a leading provider of software solutions and expertise that helps tax, accounting and audit professionals research and navigate complex regulations, comply with legislation, manage their businesses and advise clients with speed and accuracy.

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