As a partner, audit manager, or staff accountant in a large accounting firm doing external audits for large public and private companies, you may be wondering how to hold your client accountable for the components of the audit for which the client is responsible.
You would be mistaken to think that, because they are paying you a lot of money to do your thing, you have no real authority to request, let alone demand, that certain tasks be completed by the client as expected and on time.
Accountability in the workplace is a general business concern today. And driving effective accountability gets even more complicated when you are part of the trend to outsource functions that are not strategic or that can be done less expensively somewhere else.
Which side are you on? Are you the client who has hired an audit firm to do the annual audit, or are you the auditor trying to conduct an audit that meets the client's needs?
The accountability challenge can seem different depending on which side of this business relationship you are.
Perception vs Reality
The concern about whether we have the authority to demand that client personnel get their audit tasks done on time and accurately is an issue of perception. Ask yourself:
- Who is ultimately accountable for the successful completion of the audit?
- Who has the most to loose if it is not completed on time?
- Who has more at risk if the audit is not properly executed?
The auditor may be afraid of loosing the client and the associated fees, but the client is also afraid of loosing the auditor and the associated delays, questions, compliance, stock price impacts, and risks associated with such an event.
The reality is that both parties have a lot to lose if the audit is not done properly and on time, so there is a natural alignment of objectives.
Accountability From the Start
As with most critical undertakings, a good audit outcome starts at the top and from the beginning. The auditor's engagement partner must negotiate a framework of accountability with the client from the get go.
The engagement partner must clearly delineate the audit team's expectations from client personnel involved in the audit, including clear consequences if these expectations are not met.
Tracking completion performance at the individual level will help drive accountability
The Secret Sauce
The engagement partner should offer and insist on providing the client with detailed accountability evaluations of all the client staff involved at the end of the audit.
Using an accountability platform like CommandHound can simplify the entire process of communicating, tracking, and reporting accountability results at the individual level for both audit and client teams.
A tool like CommandHound, which was designed with accountability in mind from the outset, integrates project management tools to make sure things get done and that nothing falls through the cracks.
Only when completion performance is tracked at the individual level can accountability take hold. CommandHound keeps score at the individual level and allows each team member to track their own performance against expectations as they pursue the goals of the program.
Could this be a hidden opportunity to further engage with your clients to enable them to drive accountability:
- In their own businesses with their own people?
- With all of their other advisers, contractors, consultants, and the myriad other non-employee contributors?
An audit is a complex undertaking that requires detailed project management if expectations and deadlines are to be met. Project management is a futile endeavor without accountability. Accountability requires tracking at the individual level.
Don't be afraid to drive the definition of an accountability framework with your client at the outset of any audit. This is a win-win negotiation.
Use an accountability tool like CommandHound to seamlessly drive a culture of employee accountability in your audit.
Would you like to learn more about accountability?