Protiviti’s 2020 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey, conducted with support from AuditBoard, revealed that challenges endure with regard to managing SOX costs and time, as well as leveraging automation and technology tools to achieve long-term savings and efficiencies. Download the full “SOX Compliance Amid a New Business Equilibrium” report below to learn key findings and trends.

The world has changed — but SOX work goes on. Organizations required to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act no doubt are experiencing this sentiment firsthand in recent weeks. 

The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused seismic shifts in companies of all sizes. The impact worldwide has been well-documented and will continue to evolve not only for the remainder of 2020, but certainly in the years to come as organizations transition to the new equilibrium. 

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The longstanding challenges associated with compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, such as the cost of compliance and reliance on time-consuming manual tasks, are being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as finance and audit teams are required to perform audit tasks remotely.

Protiviti’s latest Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey, conducted with support from AuditBoard, examines SOX compliance during these unprecedented times. The report, titled “SOX Compliance Amid a New Business Equilibrium,” offers insights into key findings from the survey, as well as a section on COVID-19 and SOX Compliance Activities with short-term and long-term solutions for 11 activities where the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the ability for management to execute and evidence manual controls.

Key Findings from the 2020 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey:

1. SOX costs continue to rise 

This has been a long-term trend in our study, reflected in both internal SOX compliance costs and related external auditor fees. SOX compliance requirements are unlikely to change significantly — to drive down costs over the long term, greater use of data, automation, and technology tools is key.

A graph of the average annual SOX compliance costs (internal) by number of unique locations

Protiviti, SOX Compliance Amid a New Business Equilibrium, 2020

2. SOX hours are increasing

Commensurate with costs, SOX compliance-related hours are on the rise, as well. And similar to cost trends, organizations have an opportunity to reduce hours through increased use of data and technology, including automation as well as collaboration and workflow tools.

A percentage chart of the fiscal year of 2019 asking how did the total amount of hours your organization devoted to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance change?

Protiviti, SOX Compliance Amid a New Business Equilibrium, 2020

3. It’s time to embrace automation 

Long-term trends showing slow but steady increases in SOX costs and hours are unlikely to change. Automated processes and controls, along with utilization of technology tools to test controls, can create long-term efficiency, increased accuracy, and measurable time and cost savings. Of note, this also is advantageous during times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when offices are shuttered and staff are working remotely.

Among the survey respondents already leveraging technology in their organization’s SOX compliance process, it is most frequently applied in testing 5 top areas:

A graph of the 5 top areas the SOX compliance process is being leveraged within an organization.

Protiviti, SOX Compliance Amid a New Business Equilibrium, 2020

Download the full “SOX Compliance Amid a New Business Equilibrium” report below for results and insights to help SOX teams and business leaders navigate SOX compliance activities and find equilibrium in this new environment.

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2020 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey Report