7 ways to jump-start your SOX documentation planning and design

7 ways to jump-start your SOX documentation planning and design
December 10, 2014

The year is winding down, and internal control and audit teams have a lot on their plates—testing all controls. Just because your controls were A-OK in this year's audit, doesn't mean they don't need another look.

Wouldn't it be nice to hit the ground running as planning season begins? Well, you can—even while you are busy with the back and forth with your process and control owners during testing.

Hit the ground running with these 7 tips:

  1. Start with a plan
    It always pays to plan ahead. Selecting a solution and general foundation now gives you time to get your risk assessment, scoping documents, and annual planning documents set up—before the detailed steps and walk-throughs begin.

  2. Get an early advantage
    You have the early advantage today. Don't let this time pass you by. Leveraging the right technology early on in your process can have a significant impact. Give your team efficiency benefits earlier, to take your business to the next level.

  3. Whip your budget into shape
    You are in the middle of the budget process and your spending is under pressure. Take a close look at the process your team is using and ask yourself, is there a better way to be doing this? Armed with good understanding of the right process for your team, you can readily outline the benefits to validate a sound investment in a Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) documentation and certification solution.

  4. Take the pain out of change
    Take the lead, and outline a best practice workflow for changes. After walkthroughs to your RCM, process narratives, flowcharts, and testing documents, follow the workflow and make changes easily. This makes changes manageable, and versions stay under control. Try and stick to those best practices during the entire process.

  5. Make sure everything is accurate
    Stop hunting for and updating repetitive information across your documents and spreadsheets. Your time is better spent detecting gaps and analyzing exceptions. Save time, get back to analysis, and link information back to a single source of truth.

  6. Open up lines of communication
    Work together as a team. Decide when your control owners, external auditors, and other teams have access to internal control information. Standardize and automate the process as much as possible. Make sure everyone is familiar with each level of review—keeping your documents secure, workflow progressing, and your team happy.

  7. Streamline the sign-off process
    The current sign-off process is outdated and full of opportunities for mistakes to occur. Eliminate the costly back and forth and work with your signers to find a convenient way that works for everyone by streamlining comments, reviews, and signings.

Your current process is likely plagued by inefficiencies due to redundant information, multiple versions, and time lost gathering sign-offs from emails, voicemails, and sticky notes. But with these seven steps, your SOX know-how, and a little motivation, you will have the utmost confidence in your controls.

Click here to watch a short video to see how Wdesk handles this complicated process and gives users organization, control, and quality information.

When you start off on the right foot, you've already created that reliable control structure. And when you have the ability to link numbers and text directly to your narratives, flowcharts, risk control matrices, testing documents, dashboards, and executive presentations, this SOX season will be the most efficient one yet.

Mike Starr

About the author

Mike Starr, Vice President, Governmental and Regulatory Affairs, joined the Workiva team in September 2012. Mike previously served as the SEC Chief Accountant's advisor and acted as a liaison aimed to improve the quality of accounting and auditing decisions. Prior to his work with the SEC, Mike served as Chief Operating Officer for Grant Thornton International Ltd., where he oversaw global strategy and public policy. He earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Oklahoma State University (OSU), and in 2010 was recognized as an OSU distinguished accounting alumnus and inducted into the School of Accounting Hall of Fame.