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How to Conduct a Remote Audit

Most audits are conducted on-site, not because it’s practical or convenient but because it has become customary over the years. Since the dawn of accounting, in-person audits have become a facet of doing business that we begrudgingly accept. In fact, most companies conduct internal audits to be 100 percent certain that they are maintaining compliance with SOX, SOC 1 (Type 1 and Type 2), SEC Rule 17, and other external and internal compliance regulations.  Although it’s worked reasonably well, technology now permits businesses to conduct audits remotely, which means greater flexibility for business, reduced auditing costs, and greater peace of mind. But how do you conduct a remote audit? And how do you know if your business is prepared for remote accounting audits?

What Technology Do You Need to Conduct a Remote Audit?

For companies interested in conducting remote audits, it is important to recognize that technology is the key to unlock this useful capability. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems that combine Document Management, Mobile Content Management, and Workflow Automation are ideal for driving remote auditing capabilities. ECM facilitates the digitization of all enterprise documents, which leads to expanded options for dealing with documentation both in and out of the office. Here’s how it works:

  • Enterprise Content Management: a single, integrated platform that connects with your existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and provides the framework for the various technologies that make remote audits possible.
  • Document Management: technology that digitizes documentation and provides a secure, centralized repository from which all documents can be accessed, reviewed, and processed by approved users.
  • Mobile Content Management: technology that facilitates access to your organization’s digital repository by providing remote access to mobile devices. Mobile Content Management not only allows users in the field to process documents without returning to the office but also permits auditors to collect and review documents remotely for faster, less expensive audits.
  • Workflow Automation: advanced automation that leverages Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to streamline workflows and automate processes from start to finish. It also helps auditors find what they’re looking for more quickly and allows organizations to automate records retention using RPA-powered policies.

Are Remote Audits Right for Your Business?

ECM permits remote access, allowing approved users to source documentation from throughout your organization. It also allows businesses to create and control access by auditors using the same ECM system. In other words, you can provide temporary credentials to an auditor, allowing them to access the documents they require (and only those documents). This capability is ideal for SMEs and large enterprises that handle a large volume of documentation, such as invoices, sales orders, packing slips, and even onboarding forms.

The other benefit of using an ECM system to perform a remote audit is that it doesn’t limit your businesses to the types of audits it can perform. ECM is designed to be utilized across the enterprise in Accounting, Finance, Legal, Customer Service, Human Resources, and more. These departments often process thousands of documents per month, which creates a significant burden for your auditor if they are tasked with finding documents manually.

What Are the Benefits of Remote Auditing Technologies?

There are many benefits for businesses that conduct remote audits. First and foremost, it makes the process of undergoing an audit simple. Your company provides their auditing firm with an ECM user account with approved permissions that dictate what the auditor can access. Related transactional documentation is also readily available as long as your ECM system supports digital paper trails. Leading ECM systems operate as a “single source of truth” or SSOT. That means your auditor can find everything they need within a single, integrated system. Other benefits include:

  • Provides a central repository with robust search capabilities based on any recorded criteria (i.e., invoice #, vendor name, item #, date, logo, and more)
  • Supports centralized access from decentralized locations
  • Reduces audit fees
  • Accelerates audit completion
  • Captures all transactional documentation using automated Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, ensuring that no documents are ever lost, damaged, or destroyed
  • Organizes documentation contiguously.
  • Validates and updates information in real-times
  • Improves business intelligence with robust analytics capabilities
  • Tracks auditor activity and progress
  • Guides auditors using plain-text notifications
  • Generates reports that are useful for both your organization and the auditor
  • Allows your organization’s decision-makers to easily review audit results whether conducted internally or externally
  • Facilitates customizable, scalable dashboards that deliver convenient self-service analytics reporting for each audit
  • Conducts multiple audits simultaneously from disparate locations

What Happens After You Embrace Remote Auditing Technologies?

Once you start to conduct audits remotely, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of on-site meetings. These will continue to occur, although much less frequently, and these interactions should be streamlined due to the added organization and file access provided by your ECM system. Collaboration with auditors and your department heads will be accelerated for faster resolutions. The company-firm relationship will remain strong, and perhaps even improve thanks to the added efficiency of ECM.

It’s still important to meet face-to-face every now and then, but in an increasingly digital world, it’s not unrealistic to believe that these types of interactions are already being phased out in favor of meetings conducted over Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. Additionally, auditors are freed from long stints as a company’s on-site guest — something all parties admittedly appreciate. Your auditors will no longer need to travel, billable hours will be reduced, and you will gain greater control over the cost of audits. Your company will, ultimately, avoid audit projects exceeding projected timetables and budgets, resulting in mutual satisfaction in your fiscal relationships.

Needless to say, remote auditing is highly advantageous for all parties. ECM provides the platform to keep it convenient and cost-effective, allowing your organization to focus less on checks and balances and more on future growth.

To learn more about how remote audits can help your business save money, preserve time, and maintain compliance, contact IntelliChief today.

7 Machine Learning Uses for the Back Office

Machine learning is transforming the way that companies do business. But there’s no “standard” approach that’s right for every organization. Some companies are using AI to improve their manufacturing processes, while others are focusing on back-office administration. If you’re trying to decide how – or where – these technologies make the most sense for your business, there’s a wide spectrum of applications to consider. Below, we discuss seven machine learning uses that can enhance various departments across the enterprise.

Real-Time Machine Learning Applications for the Enterprise

At their core, machine learning tools (also called “deep learning” tools) are designed to help you identify patterns, collect data, and create predictive models that become more accurate over time. While humans can do the same work, computers can do it more quickly, for a higher volume of data. This makes real-time machine learning incredibly useful for a variety of projects. Some of the most common business-driven use cases include:

1. Invoice Processing

Machine learning uses algorithms that can identify part numbers, prices, and vendor information, then reconcile that information with the information from the original purchase order. Computers can even cross reference part numbers to help sort out discrepancies. This eliminates the need for a manual two- or three-way match when processing invoices.

2. Managing Tolerances

Instead of a user needing to manually calculate tolerances, machine learning applications can read invoice or sales order values and automatically compare them against information that’s saved in the user’s core ERP. This helps create fewer “touches” for the user and increases the straight-through processing rate for back-office documents.

3. Managing Vendor Discounts

Machine learning applications can read invoice due dates, then determine which invoices to pay (at what times) to take advantage of vendor rebates or discounts. This information can be extracted and presented during the voucher creation process.

4. Collecting and Organizing Unstructured Content

Most business documents are considered “unstructured”. An invoice or sales order that’s received from outside the organization can come in any format. Today’s machine learning applications can recognize data on unstructured documents so users don’t have to manually key it into the ERP.

5. Automating Workflows

When business documents are captured, real-time machine learning applications can trigger automated workflows based on the information it collected from the file. For example, a program that recognizes a vendor’s name could route that document to an appropriate person based on the sender’s email address.

6. Streamlining Financial Audits

Auditors can periodically review sample transactions to make sure they are correct, but machine learning software can regularly check for issues. If a discrepancy is detected, it can be passed along to a user for review. This results in fewer audit-related interruptions and stress-free compliance.

7. Processing Customer Orders

Customer service representatives often spend time on mundane tasks like keying orders into an ERP system or collaborating with other departments like engineering or quality. This increases the company’s lead time and is difficult to track. Machine learning technologies can create sales orders automatically and route order types for review automatically.  This results in faster Sales Order Processing that allows CSRs to focus on better customer service.

Of course, there are many other machine learning uses, too. Siemens notes that the global market for smart machines is growing by almost 20 percent every year, while Dataversity notes that every single industry sector – from manufacturing and healthcare to financial services and law – has the potential to benefit from advances in automation.

What Can’t Machine Learning Do?

Although machine learning can handle a number of redundant tasks, there are certain areas where it’s not applicable – at least, with the technologies that are currently available.

An example: while computers can understand data, they cannot understand context. They can point out an anomaly, but they can’t always determine the underlying cause, and they don’t always know how to solve it. People are still needed to draw conclusions from the insight that predictive analytics provides — providing essential depth to your deep learning initiatives.

Of course, tasks that require in-depth analysis still need to be completed by humans. Computers can only handle processes that they’ve been specifically taught to automate, which means anything that requires critical thinking can’t be solved with an algorithm. That’s why most experts recommend viewing AI as a co-pilot – not an auto-pilot.

Machine Learning Projects Are on the Rise

In 2017, more than a quarter of companies had already set aside funds for machine learning projects – and that number is only projected to rise. If you’re looking to apply AI to your back office, IntelliChief can help.

Our software becomes more advanced the more that you use it. In many cases, it can complete processes that are currently handled by your employees, without any manual effort. For instance, it can help your Accounts Payable department process vendor invoices more effectively and even eliminate the data entry in sales orders. This can make your processes much more efficient – and much less costly.

And, as an enterprise-class solution, our machine learning software has countless potential applications throughout your business. From HR and order processing to accounting and finance, there are a number of ways that we can help you transform your business – and we’re here whenever you’d like to get started.

For more information about IntelliChief’s machine learning functionality, contact us today. Or, to see practical examples of how other companies have streamlined their workflows with our automation software, visit our Resource Library to download one of our peer-to-peer case studies.

Electronic Personnel Files

Electronic Personnel Files Best Practices

Electronic Personnel Files

Your workplace records policy plays an essential role in helping your business maintain compliance with federal and state laws and regulations governing employee file access, retention, and security. If you’ve ever had a brush with the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), then you fully understand the importance of a reliable workplace records policy. That said, if your business is making the transition from paper records to electronic personnel files (as it should), it’s crucial to take a step back and re-examine your workplace records policy to ensure that you are employing electronic personnel files best practices to protect your company. This article summarizes several electronic personnel files best practices and answers essential questions, including:

  • What are electronic personnel files?
  • What is records retention? (And how can it be simplified?)
  • Why is controlling access to electronic employee files critical?
  • What are the electronic personnel files best practices for storage?
  • What is the best procedure for the destruction of HR-related documentation?
  • Why must my workplace records policy be standardized to avoid compliance issues?
  • How does Enterprise Content Management (ECM) support security and privacy in Human Resources?

What Are Electronic Personnel Files?

Electronic personnel files contain employee records related to personal information, background, employment history, and more. Traditionally, these records were consolidated in a single personnel file (i.e. a folder in a file cabinet). When an employee or employer needed to access information about a particular employee, they could reference their personnel file and browse through the available records contained therein. For small businesses with only a handful of employees, maintaining personnel files the old-fashioned way is relatively simple as there isn’t that much information to keep track of. Unfortunately, as businesses grow and evolve, so do their HR-related needs. What started as a single file cabinet for personnel files might expand to 10, 50, 100, or more.

In Human Resources, electronic personnel files eliminate the need for paper-based records and personnel files as well as the physical storage required to house them. Instead of sifting through cabinet after cabinet or calling into a storage facility for a copy of an employee file, electronic personnel files are stored securely on a server where they can be accessed instantly by approved team members. When your HR department needs to review information about an employee, they can retrieve their electronic personnel files with the touch of a button, expediting access to pre-employment documents, employment documentation, and separation of employment documents. Of course, not all employee files are available in their personnel file.

Medical information, credit information, immigration forms, and any documents relating to company complaints or investigations should be consolidated in a separate file (or files); however, these files can still be stored as electronic copies to enhance security and ensure compliance. As we will discuss later, ECM tools can help your HR department eliminate guesswork by creating standardized HR workflows to accelerate HR business processes and keep your records organized according to electronic personnel files best practices.

What Is Records Retention?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “The length of time you should keep a document depends on the action, expense, or event which the document records.” Although this statement is certainly in reference to taxes, it succinctly describes the objective of records retention — to hold or retain records for the right amount of time to avoid negative consequences. Your retention policy will be determined by state and federal law as well as your own internal retention policies, but managing both can be a challenge.  This is one of the primary reasons why businesses opt to shift from paper records to electronic personnel files — compliance. Compliance is something most business leaders worry about. Things tend to slip through the cracks when you don’t have a tight grip on your business or visibility into all of your business processes.

With ECM tools, you can set automated retention policies based on pre-existing compliance rules or your very own custom rules. These policies are rendered actionable using a robust workflow engine that aligns with your business rules. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states “Medical records must be maintained for the duration of employment plus 30 years.” Automated retention policies let you “set it and forget it” while maintaining compliance.

With ECM software integrated with your HRM or HRIS system, your retention policies for specific electronic personnel files will be updated according to actions occurring throughout your organization. That way, when an employee quits and you update your system of record accordingly, this change is identified by your ECM system and the appropriate retention policy is applied to all electronic personnel files for that specific employee.

You can also automate your retention schedule for each classification of documentation, even records governed by more than one law. Whether you retain documents for the minimum or maximum time allowed by law is your choice. ECM software also makes it easy to identify documents that don’t have clear retention policies, such as records related to pending claims or litigation. The SHRM website features a summary of federal record retention requirements, which can be used to inform your records retention policy.

Why Is Controlling Access to Electronic Employee Files Critical?

Controlling access to electronic personnel files is essential for compliance. Your employees’ information is confidential. As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that this information is granted privacy. For instance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was enacted in 1996, ensures that “all forms of individuals’ protected health information, whether electronic, written, or oral” are protected (The Privacy Rule). It also requires health information to be stored in electronic form (The Security Rule). Additionally, there are countless privacy regulations that contain highly specific provisions regarding who can (and who can’t) access and use information. By taking the time to identify current and former employee rights dealing with personnel file access, you can implement a strategy to control access to protected electronic employee files. Better yet, your ECM provider can help you by leveraging their experience helping other companies become more compliance-friendly.

What Are the Electronic Personnel Files Best Practices for Storage?

Companies that digitize HR documentation in electronic personnel files store these files in a secure and centralized digital repository. This repository, an important component of any ECM solution, serves as the connection point between your electronic personnel files and system of record. With a seamlessly integrated solution, managing HR documentation in an ECM platform will provide real-time updates in your HRM or HRIS system. It can even apply business rules to certain documents, similar to how automated retention policies operate, to streamline HR processes. Look for a solution that is safe, secure, intuitive, and integrated with your other core technologies to protect the integrity of your system as a whole.

What Is the Best Procedure for the Destruction of HR-Related Documentation?

Every company has a different procedure for the destruction of HR-related documents. For destroying paper documents, paper shredders are the most common tool of destruction. However, many people have found creative ways to destroy paper using everything from a controlled burn to soaking them in water. In the workplace, you should employ a standardized method for destroying HR-related documents — nothing too crazy.

In a paper-based office, you need to determine a process for verifying that retention requirements have been satisfied and choose a disposal method that can be executed quickly and efficiently. In an ECM-integrated office, you don’t need to worry about any of these things. Your system will monitor all of your documents and execute your unique burn policy automatically without any human intervention. It’s a simple, reliable way to handle the destruction of documents.

Why Must My Workplace Records Policy Be Standardized to Avoid Compliance Issues?

Your workplace records policy, including your retention policy, should be standardized to prevent your business from deviating into noncompliance. Consistency is key, which means your policy implementation should align with your ECM strategy to get the most out of your system. In a paper-based office, how do you ensure that your record retention rules and procedures are being applied the same way every single time? By failing to standardize your workplace records policy, you can never be completely sure your next audit will go the way you expect. By integrating Enterprise Content Management software with your existing HR technologies, you can support Human Resources by giving them the resources to deftly oversee all electronic employee files while automating time-consuming and tedious processes that lead to errors, mix-ups, and gaffes.

How Does Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Support Security and Privacy in Human Resources?

Whether your records are stored physically or electronically, protecting the confidentiality of employee records should always be a chief priority. We’ve mentioned ECM software throughout this article as being a beneficial tool that supports security and privacy to strengthen your workplace records policy — but why is this the case? Here’s a summary:

  • ECM tools, like OCR Software and Document Management, digitize your paper-based employee records into secure digital files that significantly expand your HR processing capabilities.
  • With ECM software, electronic personnel files can be stored in a secure and centralized digital repository for on-demand storage and retrieval.
  • Electronic personnel files can only be accessed by team members with the proper level of permission, eliminating the potential for unwanted eyes.
  • Electronic personnel files can be processed with minimal (or no) human intervention using HR Automation capabilities found in industry-leading ECM solutions.
  • By implementing automated retention policies and secure backups, you can preserve all personnel files, maintain compliance, and expedite audits.

By integrating an Enterprise Content Management system with your existing system of record, you can insulate your records for privacy and greatly increase security while leveraging the benefits of electronic personnel files and HR Automation to improve efficiency.

Want to learn more about electronic personnel files best practices using Enterprise Content Management and HR Automation? Contact IntelliChief today to speak with one of our experts about your needs and requirements.