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6 Golden Rules for Running a Remote Internal Audit

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data flowing from businesses to home through the cloud
17 March 2020

Meet Ruth Nouanesengsy, the internal audit manager for Workiva.

Previously the internal audit manager for Lancaster Colony, she manages the risk and controls processes for Workiva entirely remotely—hundreds of miles away from our headquarters in Ames, Iowa.

In other words, she's mastered the work processes many newly remote risk and audit professionals (perhaps yourself!) are scrambling to establish right now.

Learn from the expert—below, find Ruth's six golden rules for virtual work.

1. Set up boundaries

This step might go without saying, but it's foundational.

With schools closed and many businesses shuttered, you might have kids, a spouse or parents under one roof, with too much energy and not enough to distract them. All the while, you're managing critical financial documents just feet away.

'It is important to create the boundaries at home to allow yourself the ability to actually perform work and also to have home time', said Ruth. 'When your environment changes, set a schedule and stick to it'.

Also, set expectations with family members that work needs to get done during the workday. For instance, when the door's closed, don't knock. (If you have family members too young to understand, let your coworkers know to anticipate a tiny guest on conference calls.)

2. Utilise tools and overcommunicate 

While it differs from company to company, most financial reporting, risk and compliance teams aren't used to the communication ground rules innate to working remotely.

And, Ruth said, those ground rules can be summarised easily: 'Overcommunicate, always. Remember to communicate what you need and what you've been working on, and be upfront with your teams'.

Whether that means video calls, phone calls, directed comments, emails or countless other mediums, let your team-mates know what's on your mind. When you assume, intent gets lost, and work may need to be redone.

3. Re-evaluate what's in scope

With a blurred definition of 'work from home' (see point #1) and a volatile economic landscape, all the work you wanted to get done this quarter might not get done, which may or may not be a bad thing. Adjust accordingly, said Ruth.

'Evaluate the current plan and timing of expected work', she said. 'You may need to consider adjusting timing or even postponing audits until a future year. Are there audits that are lower priority but easier to perform remotely? You may want to pull these forward'.

4. Make the best of idle time

'With potential inability to perform an audit due to not being on-site, now is a great time to update your internal processes or perform some data analytics as you plan for upcoming audits', said Ruth. 'Also, look for online conferences or webinars that offer CPE. Prepare for what’s coming, so your most critical business disclosures and financial reports aren't impacted'.

If your organisation or function is not set up with cloud technology, you may find yourself unable to access critical documents and have some free time on your hands. Use the time to get your work set for the future of your department.

5. Be cautious about accessibility

If you're not managing work on a cloud platform and still have access to locally saved files in your office, now is the time to identify what isn't in a secure, accessible place and make them more available to you, said Ruth. Relying on spotty VPN connections to seamlessly save your work into a shared drive can result in lost data and more stress than you need right now.

'Download all the files you may need to your desktop in case the VPN is unable to be accessed', said Ruth. 'And, don't forget to re-upload on a regular basis to ensure you don't lose your work'.

6. Maximise and extend your use of cloud technologies

If you're already using cloud technology for internal audit management, working at home might not be that much different than working in the office. Make the most of your current stack of cloud technologies, and think of ways to use them to improve the housing, creation and collaboration on work.

'For working remotely, the tasks and directed comments features in the Workiva platform are so useful to my day-to-day work', said Ruth. 

Looking for more advice on remote work? Check out these 6 Working from Home Tips for Financial Reporting and Controls Teams
 

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