Smooth Sailing for the Sarbanes-Oxley Team During an M&A Transaction


  • In 2014, the retail organization acquired two private companies with no formal system of internal controls in place.
  • In addition to these two integrations, the team needed to implement the new 2013 COSO Framework, update its entity level controls, and add controls where the new framework revealed gaps.
  • The director of accounting and the SOX manager are responsible for developing and managing controls, monitoring the process, and sending out certification notifications.
  • Sharing data and other information between the SOX team and internal audit was difficult. The internal audit team used Thomson Reuters AccelusTM. This required that the two teams work together to ensure the correct controls were tested, especially throughout this last year when controls changed constantly due to the acquisition.
  • 20 process owners participated in the SOX process with approximately 450 controls. The team went through a process to rationalize and reduce the number of controls due to documentation issues and the acquisition.
  • During the planning and walkthrough process, the team reviewed round 30–35 process narratives, which were updated by their process owners. With so many individuals involved, the team struggled with version control issues and data accuracy.

Why Wdesk works for the SOX team

  • The company began using Wdesk four years ago for financial reporting. In May 2014, the company acquired two companies, which required the SOX team to build out two full integrations to become SOX compliant.
  • Implementation was completed within three weeks, while building out controls at the same time. The team immediately started working in their documents.
  • The director of accounting and the SOX manager, with the help of their Customer Success Manager, created flowcharts in Wdesk. They also engaged Professional Services to create and set up dashboards based on their unique control structure framework—which allowed the team to review control alignment and display dashboards in Wdesk Presentations.
  • The SOX team consulted a Solutions Architect at Workiva to review its process, see what improvements could be made, and leverage best practices of other Wdesk customers.
  • The company engaged its external audit team, directly in Wdesk, using track changes. The external auditors found Wdesk easy to use with very little training.
  • Once process owners made changes to process narratives, external audit reviewed what changes were made. External audit then either accepted or rejected changes, or created a blackline.
  • The team automatically sent out quarterly sign-offs to process owners as well as annual sub-certifications to management. There was no need to constantly babysit the process because of the real-time dashboard monitoring where each certification was at in the process.


  • The biggest benefit the team has experienced is the ability to share all documentation without having to use Word®, Excel®, or SharePoint®.
  • The company has been able to take advantage of cloud-based technology to access and collaborate on documentation across locations and countries.
  • The SOX, internal audit, and external audit teams have increased efficiency when creating, updating, and reviewing documentation by leveraging track changes and blacklines in Wdesk.
  • Certification has saved the team time and headaches. Team members can certify from anywhere at any time in the easy-to-use system.
  • Because of the benefits of Wdesk, the company has been able to save on headcount that would have been required during a M&A transaction.
  • "We can collaborate on documentation through Wdesk cloud technology across many different office and geographic locations, significantly increasing efficiency and maintaining strong version control,” said the director of accounting.

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