Audit teams have had to get creative to get ahead of pandemic implications for SOX and audit. As part of our spotlight on audit leaders during International Internal Audit Awareness month, we spoke with Alex Chin, Director of Internal Audit at Altra Motion, about how his team has leveraged technology to stay on top of emerging issues, collaborate effectively while remote, and get visibility into their controls and team activities during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.
Tell us about your role and the internal audit team at Altra Motion:
I’m Alex Chin, and I’m the Director of Internal Audit at Altra Motion, a global manufacturer of products and systems focused on power transmission and motion control — from huge brakes in mines to miniature motors for medical devices and everything in between. In terms of structure, I report to the Audit Committee chair with a dotted line to the CFO. Many of our internal audit team members joined Altra around the time I did — about a year ago, just after the company went through a transformational merger that doubled the size of our business. Double the locations, revenue, people overnight — internal audit needed to grow to keep pace!
As we were mapping out the future state of Altra’s internal audit program, we knew we’d need an audit management solution that was flexible. I had implemented a competitor at a previous company, but I knew that it would be too rigid for our situation at Altra. We selected AuditBoard to centralize and streamline our audit programs across all of our businesses.
What are some of the impacts to the business and internal audit from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how have you addressed them?
On the business side, we have over fifty manufacturing sites globally with a fairly sizable presence in China, so we’ve been dealing with this since February. We very quickly formed a Pandemic Response Team whose primary focus is to help ensure the health and safety of our over 9,000 employees around the world. At the same time, we also created a Business Continuity Task Force to assist in supporting the demands of our customers and working closely with our suppliers to help mitigate potential disruptions in the supply chain. Many of the markets that we serve have been deemed essential by federal and local governments, and we have been working hard to support our customers in sectors such as medical, agriculture, and energy.
On the audit side, AuditBoard has been essential in dealing with this pandemic. Having a cloud-based audit management solution means that wherever we are, we’re able to go to a central hub and get instant visibility into our controls. In AuditBoard, we’re able to go in quickly to assess the impact on control activities and performance due to COVID and people working remotely and adjust accordingly.
What impacts have you seen on internal audit from having to work remotely, and on collaboration with audit stakeholders and external audit?
I’ve had a weekly check-in call with our CFO ever since we started working remotely. During the first few calls he was reaching out to every department with a standard checklist about how the team was managing the transition to working remotely. I let my team members speak first, and everyone said that they felt well set up to audit from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s the corporate office, a satellite office in China, or my dining room table — everything we need to access is in AuditBoard or in our shared files.
One thing that’s been a challenge for us, and I’m sure for other audit teams too, is being grounded for an extended period of time. So much of internal audit is relationship-based — going out to sites and building rapport with people. We’re figuring out creative ways to use technology like Microsoft Teams to stay in contact with the various finance and operational groups across the globe. We’re also utilizing AuditBoard to keep in touch with the business and get visibility into our team’s activities as they’re working from home.
We’ve also been able to give our external auditors access to AuditBoard and the documentation within, which has reduced the time and effort for internal audit and duplicative requests to the business. Our business units upload their documents right to AuditBoard, and thanks to role-based permissions, the external auditors access what they need without burdening them with information that is not relevant. In a prior life at other companies, it would have been rounds of back-and-forth requests and providing documents — I’d estimate that just in terms of providing reconciliation information to our external auditor, implementing AuditBoard has saved us anywhere from a half to three quarters of an FTE worth of time.
How have other parts of the business leveraged AuditBoard for collaboration?
For most of 2019, AuditBoard was used just by the internal audit group, but at the end of 2019 we started to open it up to other areas of the business. Our corporate finance team was looking for a better way to obtain representation letters from the business units all over the world. We leveraged WorkStream to automate sending and obtaining these rep letters from our business units without a hitch.
Any closing thoughts about how AuditBoard has delivered value to your team in this time of uncertainty?
The scope of what we’ve done has expanded with having AuditBoard to streamline the administrative tasks that used to take up huge amounts of time. Now we have the flexibility to react quickly to situations that come up like the pandemic, where otherwise we might have been struggling just to figure out how to work from home. Implementing AuditBoard has really been a win-win-win all the way around.
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