The five primary challenges of remote audits

Nov 29, 2020 12:16:51 PM | 22 min read

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As Covid-19 has changed the way we work, more and more firms are transitioning to either partially or fully remote audits. Despite the recent proof that audits can be completed effectively in a difficult business climate, there are several aspects of remote audits that remain a challenge. By identifying and acknowledging the five biggest challenges of completing a remote audit, auditors can better understand how to overcome those challenges. 

Despite the recent proof that audits can be completed effectively in a difficult business climate, there are several aspects of remote audits that remain a challenge.
 
Maintaining quality standards

Most importantly, regardless of whether the audit is completed in person or remotely, auditors have the continued responsibility to deliver the same high-quality, thorough audits that meet quality and integrity standards. The responsibility to the public remains the same and there is no tolerance for “doing the best you can under the circumstances.”

Testing new assurance methods

While auditing standards remain the same, no one has specified the best methods for obtaining assurance, which can leave auditors in a grey area. This means auditors must live in a constant state of change, requiring them to constantly reinvent stale processes, think more creatively, and work more agilely.

Testing new assurance methods

Many aspects of an audit have traditionally required an in-person presence by the auditor. In a fully remote audit, this simply isn’t possible. In this scenario, tasks like inventory control can become even more difficult. Additionally, without being in the same room to discuss challenges and solutions with clients and team members, many auditors are finding it more difficult to communicate effectively and maintain productivity.

Understanding the client perspective

Audits have always included a push-pull dynamic between the client and the auditor where the auditor is trying to get information from the client while the client is trying to pull the right strings internally to provide that information. This dynamic is only exacerbated by the current climate where clients have experienced massive changes to their businesses virtually overnight. Delays, inconsistencies, illness, and the general unknown make completing audits for clients more difficult than ever before.

Understanding the client perspective

Data security has always been an issue for auditors. Clients are sharing their most sensitive information and expect it to be inviolate. While paper audits eliminate many security risks, they are not feasible for a remote audit and frankly, are becoming a thing of the past in today’s technologically driven world. The challenge then becomes how to request, store, and maintain sensitive client documentation securely and—almost equally as important—how to ensure the client feels confident that it’s secure.