Let’s imagine a scenario: The auditors have reviewed your filing and they come back to you with questions – a lot of questions. Where did this number come from? Why is there a discrepancy between two numbers that should be the same? Is this the latest, most accurate data?
You shouldn’t be scared, but chances are you might be. Questions like this require extensive back tracking into old emails and previous document versions to find out what changed where and deciding which colleague can offer some context. This process is time-consuming during a period in which every second counts to ensure your (ideally error-free) filing is submitted on time.
If this scenario sounds familiar, then it’s a perfect time to analyze how your processes and disclosure management software affect your audit trail’s quality. Here are 3 secrets to achieving your best audit trail ever:
- Know where your numbers come from – and automate them
As humans, we’re not perfect. It’s a very real possibility that when manually keying raw data into reports, a mistake could be made. Adding or omitting a zero may go unnoticed through the report creation process, but it will make a significant impact come auditing time.
The best fix for this pain is to automate your controls so that all raw data flowing from the consolidation phase is plugged directly into your report drafts. This data source-to-report functionality removes the manual work and significantly alleviates the risk of human error and numerical discrepancies in your report, ultimately meaning less push back from auditors.
Yet even if the auditors do come back with questions about the data, you can rest assured that the data in your report links directly to the data source. This allows you to connect the dots easier, providing answers to your auditor faster.
- Keep only one version of each report
There are many hands and eyes involved in the disclosure management process. Combine this with pesky restrictions on multiple document editors in many applications, and you end up with countless versions of a single document from first draft to submission. This often confuses the Disclosure Management Cycle and leaves far too much room for error. To simplify things and mitigate errors, your team should maintain one single version of each report from start to finish.
Easier said than done, you say? Not necessarily. Consider investing in disclosure management software that integrates with the MS Office programs you know and love. This way, when the auditors have questions, you don’t need to seek out 20 different versions of the same document; rather, you can view the complete evolution of one single document within your disclosure management software.
- Use software that leaves footprints
Having one single version of the document throughout its lifecycle certainly simplifies things, but in order ease common audit trail pains, it’s also helpful to have a record of all changes made to the document. This way there’s no question about who made what change and when – all the information is there so you don’t waste time trying to figure out the context for the change.
To achieve this, look for disclosure management software that has complete workflow management capabilities, permissions and comparison features that reveal the date and time a change was made, as well as who was responsible.
Well, the secret’s out: the companies that end up with solid and transparent audit trails use software that directly links to raw data, uses one single version of the report throughout its evolution and shows when and where each change was made so editors can be held accountable.
What other process and software characteristics pave the way for a clear audit trail at your organization?