Two-plus years into contending with a global pandemic, business leaders recognize that Sarbanes-Oxley compliance activities are not immune to a broad range of market disruptions. Inflation, a rising interest rate environment, ongoing supply chain volatility, a bruising talent shortage, and other economic and external factors compromise internal control environments while contributing to rising SOX compliance costs and hours. Internal changes, trends and challenges – including the adoption of flexible work models, recruiting and retention difficulties, digital transformation and innovation, and strategic repositioning in response to external volatility – exert similar pressures on compliance programs.
Protiviti’s annual SOX Compliance Survey benchmarks compliance costs, hours, processes and improvements, including how these areas are affected by current business conditions. This year’s results show that costs, along with the hours that internal audit teams devote to SOX compliance, continue to increase across most, if not all, company sizes, industries and reporting types.
Escalating compliance costs, time and efforts have a silver lining: They are driving more investments in automation and technology tools that generate greater efficiencies – and potentially cost savings as well as effectiveness and coverage benefits – into the SOX compliance process. There also are opportunities to pursue procedural and structural changes in SOX compliance programs. Shared services or “centers of excellence” approaches – managed internally or by an external outsourcing partner – offer substantial opportunities for efficiency improvements.