Re: Accounting Firm Audit Methodology vs. Technical Writing Research Styles

Subject: Re: Accounting Firm Audit Methodology vs. Technical Writing Research Styles
From: Lisa Wright <liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 07:29:26 -0700

Hi Anthony,
Congratulations on the job! I am doing similar work. In fact, we are this week wrapping up our documentation and reviewing the controls with the client, who will sign a document stating that the controls are accurate and the company is ready for testing. Then we develop test plans for the controls and execute the tests. (I probably won't be around for that part.)

I can't really speak to what most audits look like, but I'll share my experience to give you some idea of what a project might look like.

As part of pricing the project, the project manager and the client agree to the scope. In the case of SOX work, that means the specific processes where you are going to document the controls. We don't deviate too much from this list. Scope is based on several things (this is a partial list):

1. What are the external auditors concerned about? For that you read the past audit reports and consult with them.
2. What did the company reveal in its 10K and recent 10Q statements?
3. Have any areas of concern arisen for the Audit Committee (an independent arm of the board of directors, and likely the group your project team is accountable to). Concerns can arise from the internal auditor or from whistleblower reports.
4. If there's cash money involved, there are standard areas you'll look at: Sales Audit, Cash Receiving, etc.
5. What is the materiality of the account, meaning, how much money is involved?

I attend meetings with the accountant-consultant. I am not a project lead and I am not responsible for developing content, except for drafting Visio flowcharts based on the meetings. Because I've done a lot of interviewing in my career, I make contributions at meetings and ask good, relevant questions that will help me create the flowchart ("who does that? what report do they use? what account does that hit? who is responsible?"). At the beginning of the project I developed the tools they would use and standards for them to follow. At the end, I am doing QC on the document set based on standards and anything that's evolved in the course of the project.

To develop the content, the accountant-consultants look for existing policies and procedures, the interview the people who do the processes, and they document the controls that mitigate the risks. Documentation takes the forms of a flowchart, a risk-control matrix, and a narrative that describes the process. The narrative is *not* a step-by-step SOP.

If I *were* developing content, I'd be doing some similar activities to tech writing, except for one thing: My job on a SOX project would not be to doc the process. My job is to doc the controls *around* the process. You have to capture enough so that someone can understand what's involved, but not so much that you could do that person's job. It's a subtle distinction, and it's tripping up one of the accountant-consultants who has an audit background and is mired in the details. We are supposed to take the 30,000-foot view. Nor are we in a process improvement project, though we do have to report areas requiring remediation and follow up on that.

My goodness, this has become quite a long essay. I'm not sure if I really answered your question, but I hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you have more questions.


Anthony wrote:

I've just secured a contract to hire position with a
moderately sized accounting firm who does a great deal
of risk management consulting by auditing a firm's
internal controls, IT department, SOX compliance, etc.
I secured the job based on my IT background,
experience documenting accounting/financial processes,
SOX experience, and research background.

Does anyone have any experience with accounting firms
and/or audit companies that can describe the
differences I can expect?


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Accounting Firm Audit Methodology vs. Technical Writing Research Styles: From: Anthony

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