AAM Minute - Special Section

The ‘Super’ Audit: A Virtual Solution to Reduce Client Travel

Bri Brown & Olivia Mitchell, Carr, Riggs & Ingram


These days, many companies function across multiple locations. For many entities, operating remotely makes it easier to conduct business. However, what happens when a firm wants to offer audit services to a client located in a state where the firm has no presence? For Carr, Riggs & Ingram (CRI), the answer was to devise a heroic, technological audit solution that would help clients substantially reduce travel costs.

 

The Goal: Leap Travel Costs in a Single Bound

In 2011, CRI participated in an audit bid for a water and sewer district in South Carolina. Given the relationship between the company controller and one of our partners, we were almost certain we would win the business. To our surprise, we lost the bid to a local firm. Why did we lose?

 

According to the district chief financial officer (CFO), they admired our expertise and appreciated our firm’s subject matter experts across the South. However, there still was not a CRI office in South Carolina, and the company did not have enough money budgeted to cover travel costs.

 

We understood the CFO’s concerns. Audit engagements often require significant face-to-face interaction, so it would be difficult for the district’s audit team to work with us without us having a presence in South Carolina. We were disappointed, but that feeling would not last forever.

 

The Solution: Virtual ‘Superpowers’

Five years later, the same company decided to change audit firms and issued another audit bid to the other top six finalists from their 2011 bid. CRI was one of those top six finalists, so we were excited to have another chance to propose.

 

Given the district’s concerns about travel costs, we decided to conduct our initial pre-proposal discussion with our key partners, the district controller, and the district CFO through GoToMeeting. After our meeting, we created a plan to perform parts of the audit virtually, which would reduce the client’s travel costs by 60 percent. Our proposed solution would give the district the ‘superpowers’ to make their audit engagement travel costs (almost) invisible.

 

The CFO and controller were impressed with our proposal. Not only was our expertise most aligned with their needs, but the core of our plan – integrating technologies to conduct a high-quality audit in real time – was something they had never seen before. With our solution, the CFO and controller no longer had to worry about CRI not having a location in South Carolina. We won the business!

 

The Implementation: Real-Time ‘Bat Signals’

We conduct our audit engagement meetings and processes with a cross-functional team whose members are located across several states. These team members can send ‘bat signals’ of valuable insights to our client no matter where they are. Our communication and planning phase was conducted entirely through GoToMeeting, and we use other technologies to facilitate our evidence-gathering process. The client is so excited about our virtual process that we are brainstorming ways for them to incorporate our technology solutions into their internal meetings and board meetings. CRI’s virtual audit process ‘saved the day’ for our client, and we look forward to helping them implement our solutions in other areas of their organization.