New Protiviti Survey Finds SOX Compliance Lagging in Use of Data and Automation

Press Release


Nearly half of organisations are still not using technology tools in controls testing


MENLO PARK, CA - June 24, 2019 – The tenth annual Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Compliance Survey by global consulting firm Protiviti identifies that 47 percent of audit teams are neglecting to adopt the advanced next-generation technologies capable of making the compliance process less time-intensive and more efficient. Seventeen years after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the challenges associated with SOX compliance continue to be pervasive for many firms.

However, the audit, compliance and finance leaders and professionals responding to the 2019 Protiviti survey indicated that their organisations are waking up to the fact that they need to automate their programmes, as 46 percent reported they plan to discuss the topic with their external auditors during fiscal 2019. Though SOX compliance expenses have edged downward during the past year, the costs remain significant for many organisations, especially with respect to the value delivered beyond financial reporting processes.

Further, following trends observed since the 2018 survey, hours spent on SOX compliance continue to rise. Among companies that reported an increase in their SOX compliance hours, 59 percent reported the number of hours went up by more than 10 percent over the prior year. This increase reflects the amount of time internal teams and external auditors invest in compliance activities determined by a range of “beyond-SOX” factors, including follow-on effects of Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) inspections, new accounting standards, process and technology changes and more.

“Looking back on the decade of information gathered since Protiviti first conducted the study, it’s evident the majority of companies still have a long way to go in their journey towards a more efficient SOX compliance programme,” said Brian Christensen, executive vice president and global leader of Protiviti’s internal audit and financial advisory solution. “The good news is that the technology required to ease SOX compliance processes is here. We recommend that audit and finance leaders identify the solutions best-suited for their organisations and commit to transforming to a next-generation SOX compliance programme sooner rather than later.”

Among the survey respondents already leveraging technology in their organisation’s SOX compliance process, data analytics is the most widely used tool (41%), followed by automated process approval workflow tools (38%) and access controls, user provisioning and segregation of duties review tools (36%).

“These days, nearly every industry is going through some form of digital transformation,” said Andrew Struthers-Kennedy, managing director and leader of Protiviti’s IT audit practise. “With SOX hours and control counts on the rise, coupled with increasing pressure from the PCAOB, audit professionals are at a critical juncture. It’s clear that transforming their mindset and approach and then leveraging advanced technology to improve processes is the way forward.”

The Protiviti report, titled Benchmarking SOX Costs, Hours and Controls, is based on a survey of 693 audit, compliance and finance leaders and professionals at U.S. public companies, representing a wide range of industries. The survey was conducted with support from AuditBoard, a leading cloud-based audit, risk and compliance software company, during the first quarter of 2019.

Protiviti and AuditBoard recently formed an alliance to collaborate to provide organisations with a comprehensive solution of software, consulting and thought leadership for advancing their SOX and internal audit initiatives.

Survey Resources Available

The survey report is available for complimentary download at www.protiviti.com/soxsurvey, in addition to an infographic and video that highlight key findings. A free 75-minute webinar will be conducted on June 27 at 9:00 a.m. PDT featuring Christensen and guest speaker Tom O’Reilly, AuditBoard director and Internal Audit Practise Leader, along with Protiviti Managing Director Eric Groen and Director Cassie Putnam, sharing more findings from the survey and discussing their implications for SOX compliance and internal audit functions. To join the webinar, please register here.

About AuditBoard

AuditBoard is the leading cloud-based platform transforming the way enterprises automate, collaborate, and report in real-time on critical risk, audit, and compliance workflows. AuditBoard offers a full suite of easy-to-use audit management and compliance solutions for SOX, controls management, operational audits, and workflow management. AuditBoard’s clients include industry-leading pre-IPO to Fortune 50 companies looking to streamline their audit functions. For more information: www.auditboard.com.

About Protiviti Inc.

Protiviti (www.protiviti.com) is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. Through its network of more than 80 offices in over 20 countries, Protiviti and its independently owned Member Firms provide clients with consulting solutions in finance, technology, operations, data, analytics, governance, risk and internal audit.

Named to the 2019 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Protiviti has served more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000® and 35 percent of Fortune Global 500® companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies. Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half is a member of the S&P 500 index.

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