As modern businesses continue to evolve and embrace digitalisation, companies are increasingly expected to improve the efficiency and speed of their corporate reporting. For this reason, it is now more important than ever to make combined assurance a part of the auditing process for organisations.
This is according to Terry Ramabulana, Mazars Public Sector Head, who says that especially in light of the fact that many of the processes within businesses have become automated, businesses and consultants need to embrace new approaches to auditing and assessing their companies. “As so many of the functions within a company now overlap, they can no longer be audited as separate silos.”
An example of this, he says, is the recruitment, on-boarding and termination processes, which have become completely automated in most organisations by integrating IT, human resources and security. “In order to make a holistic assessment of this function within a company, it is therefore necessary to conduct an audit that simultaneously looks at all three of these functions and how they relate to one another. In the digital environment, especially, being able to do this is absolutely vital.”
Ramabulana explains that this is where combined assurance offers some unique advantages to a company. “Simply put, combined assurance is the co-ordinated approach that is applied when providing a business with assurance on whether key risks are being managed appropriately within an organisation, in order to aid in decision making. This entails customising the audit process to achieve the goals of the organisation. For instance, one may need an audit that combines an IT audit with financial data, as well as information from other departments, and find a way to make this as simple and quick as possible. This requires an even more scientific approach to the already complex audit process.”
Ramabulana notes that providing combined assurance incorporates a range of new techniques and skills into the company audit. “Robotics and automation are becoming crucial for this process in order to increase accuracy and speed, which is why IT audit skills are also becoming an indispensable tool for service providers.”
In addition, he states that companies need to be educated on the advantages and processes involved in combined assurance. “The decision makers in the business all need to understand that combined assurance offers the unique opportunity to view the organisation from any given angle, and find out how each component of their businesses affects the entire operation. All the client needs to do, is to decide which components need to be viewed in relation to one another, and the auditor will come up with a bespoke model to provide the required information.”
Ramabulana states that Mazars has recently refined its combined assurance capabilities and has been able to provide data crucial to the decision makers for a number of organisations. “So far, the clients that we have targeted and provided this service for include state-owned entities, banks and financial services, as well as major players in the energy sector.
“In each of these cases, we started off by conducting both formal and informal interviews to determine the clients’ primary concerns and priorities. From there, we created combined assurance models to match their needs exactly, and we have been able to build continuing partnerships out of this.”
Ramabulana points out that combined assurance is very much becoming the way of the future for businesses competing in the modern, digital environment. “Being able to make the best possible decisions for an organisation, by implementing new systems and solutions in the shortest amount of time, is becoming essential for survival today,” he concludes.