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Harnessing the power of Wdesk for SOX

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This energy company’s SOX compliance team relied on a complex, time-consuming approach to its SOX process. It made the switch to Wdesk and never looked back. 

Six hundred spreadsheets. Hundreds of people. Countless hours of work. And immeasurable frustration. 

That’s a summary of the process one multinational energy company was using to meet its Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) documentation requirements. The company’s SOX reporting team had used the time-consuming and costly process since the regulation came in to effect for the company.

“We decided we just couldn’t continue that process,” says the internal controls manager who oversees SOX compliance. “It wasn’t scalable, and it wasn’t very efficient.”

The manager is responsible for the execution of the internal controls program, SOX testing, planning, fieldwork, and reporting to the executive management team. In his role, he travels to company locations around the world to collect data and evaluate SOX regulation processes. He and a team of four people monitor internal controls to confirm the company’s controls are effective.

The broken link

Besides the sheer number of spreadsheets the team had to manage, the bigger issue was controlling the data within the documents. Each team member was responsible for his or her own spreadsheets and a risk control matrix. The manager would maintain a master spreadsheet and oversee the process. But when changes were made to single spreadsheets, it often created problems.

“They would change something on their spreadsheet—our assumption was the link was working, and it would flow back to mine. But, in fact, it didn’t,” explains the manager. “The link would be broken, or something had been changed, and the information just didn’t flow back and forth. It was very painful.”

Just fixing the problem consumed 30 percent of one team member’s time.

“Instead of adding value to the company by executing the SOX program, she would spend time rebuilding links and getting the spreadsheets to work,” comments the manager. So when the team member left on maternity leave—during the year-end crunch time—it was time for a change.

The manager purchased a more robust SOX software program in hopes it would streamline the process and ease the pressure on her team. Despite promises from the vendor that the software could manage the internal controls program, it didn’t. “It just didn’t live up to our expectations or needs,” he says.

The third time was the charm. The company’s SEC reporting team was already working with Workiva and suggested that the SOX team check out Wdesk for SOX.

”What sparked my interest was the fact that I could replace our 600 spreadsheets,” he says. “That and the ability to update a piece of data in one spot and have it flow through the entire SOX program.”

A clear choice

Within a week of the demo, the SOX team decided to switch to Wdesk. The wisdom of its switch was validated even as they made the change.

“I wouldn’t even call the process an implementation because that makes it sound like a big project,” notes the manager. “The switch to Wdesk was very simple. I provided the documents, and Workiva did a great job of setting it all up.”

During the process he says the Workiva Customer Success Managers felt like “an extension of his team.” He says the solution required minimal training, too. “We did a 30-minute training session. It’s very intuitive, so that’s all we really needed.”

Not only has the company’s SOX process become much easier, Wdesk is saving the company money too.

“The efficiency we achieve is the equivalent of a full-time employee over the course of a year,” he says. In other words, Wdesk does the work of one team member but without the salary or cost of benefits.

Like a good team member who gains skills over time, Wdesk continues to grow and become more and more valuable to the company. The manager regularly shares his feedback with the Workiva team in order to help shape the new features.

“I don’t have to wait six months for a new release,” says the manager. “There are new features and functionalities being built in every week or two. The product is continuing to grow, and it’s continuing to develop.”

Certified excellence

The company has also been utilizing Certification from Wdesk, which streamlines the process of certifying the reports. Previously, a C-suite administrative assistant used a manual process to track down certifiers working around the world. Now, Certification translates documents if needed, emails them directly to certifiers, and even sends reminders.

With a click of a button, the certifiers can review the documents, add comments, and send their certifications back. Meanwhile, the reporting manager can track the progress with the handy dashboards in Wdesk. “It’s increased the efficiency around our certification process,” he says.

Having successfully transitioned from wrangling 600 spreadsheets and two time-consuming and costly manual processes into two elegant, streamlined, and automated approaches, the company’s internal controls manager is a big fan of Wdesk. “I would recommend this solution based on the flexibility, ease of access, and linking—those are just some of the benefits!”

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