How Internal Auditors can win The War against Spreadsheet Fraud

To prevent another round of million dollar scandals due to fraudulent manipulations on spreadsheets, regulatory bodies have launched major offensives against these well-loved User Developed Applications (UDAs). Naturally, internal auditors are front and center in carrying out these offensives.

While regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Dodd-Frank Act, and Solvency II can only be effective if end users are able to carry out the activities and practices required of them, auditors need to ascertain that they have. Sad to say, when it comes to spreadsheets, that is easier said than done.

Because spreadsheets are loosely distributed by nature, internal auditors always find it hard to: locate them, identify ownership, and trace their relationships with other spreadsheets. Now, we’re still talking about naturally occurring spreadsheets. How much more with files that have been deliberately tampered?

Spreadsheets can be altered in a variety of ways, especially if the purpose is to conceal fraudulent activities. Fraudsters can, for instance:

  • hide columns or rows,
  • perform conditional formatting, which changes the appearance of cells depending on certain values
  • replace cell entries with false values either through direct input or by linking to other spreadsheet sources
  • apply small, incremental changes in multiple cells or even spreadsheets to avoid detection
  • design macros and user defined functions to carry out fraudulent manipulations automatically

Recognising the seemingly insurmountable task ahead, the Institute of Internal Auditors released a guide designed specifically for the task of auditing user-developed applications, which of course includes spreadsheets.

But is this really the weapon internal auditors should be wielding in their quest to bring down spreadsheet fraud? Our answer is no. In fact, we believe no such weapon has to be wielded at all?because the only way to get rid of spreadsheet fraud is to eliminate spreadsheets once and for all.

Imagine how easy it would be for internal auditors to conduct their audits if data were kept in a centralised server instead of being scattered throughout the organisation in end-user hard drives.

And that’s not all. Because a server-based solution can be configured to have its own built-in controls, all your data will be under lock and key; unlike spreadsheet-based systems wherein storing a spreadsheet file inside a password-protected workstation does not guarantee equal security for all the other spreadsheets scattered throughout your company.

Learn more about Denizon’s server application solutions and discover a more efficient way for your internal auditors to carry out their jobs.

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Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry

 

How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence

 

Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment

 

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Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework

 

Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations

 

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Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back

 

Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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Measure it to manage it. This saying applies perfectly to energy management. Effectively managing energy use is virtually impossible with unreliable measurement devices in place or worse still, no measurements at all. Smart meters are a smart way to measure energy and water usage giving you more control over the amount of energy or water usage.

Smart energy meters:
Smart meters are indeed a smart way to get insight into your energy use which brings more security and a better environment. They can also enable you to get Smart Energy Reports that are a personalised guide to energy efficiency.

Other benefits of smart meters:

? You are able to generate simple graphs and charts showing you where you use your energy and money

? Consumption of gas and electricity is broken down. This implies that one can be able to view their spending at a glance

? Smart meters track consumption on a monthly basis enabling you to compare your own consumption against other similar households

? By tracking energy consumption and spending over time, one can be able to view the history and assess the impact of their energy efficiency measures over a particular period

Smart water meters:
Smart meters are not only used for measuring energy use, they are also used to measure water usage efficiency. Water efficiency is essential for management of sustainable water resources.

Water resources have been diminishing over time posing a challenge for water users and water suppliers to seriously look for ways to manage water efficiency. The need for accurate, adequate and reliable measurement and monitoring practices of water consumption in organisations can therefore not be overlooked.

Timely collection and analysis of water use data, and relaying this data in a timely manner to the water user, can result in significant changes in water use behaviour. Other benefits include instant detection of areas where water wastage is occurring e.g. leakages hence action is taken to save water. Similar to energy data, water data collected by smart metering systems is also vital in designing water efficiency and recycling systems as well as the improvement of demand management policies and programs.

The use of smart meters to monitor water consumption enables users to analyse, and interpret the data collected. This feedback enables users to change their behaviours.

Which KPI?s to Use in CRM

Customer relationship management emerged in the 1980?s in the form of database marketing. In those tranquil pre-social media days, the possibility of ?managing? clients may have been a possibility although Twitter and Facebook took care of that. Modern managers face a more dynamic environment. If you are one, then what are the trends you should be monitoring yourself (as opposed to leaving it to others).

If you want to drip feed plants, you have to keep the flow of liquid regular. The same applies to drip-feed marketing. Customers are fickle dare we say forgetful. Denizon recommends you monitor each department in terms of Relationship Freshness. When were the people on your list last contacted, and what ensued from this?

Next up comes the Quality of Engagements that follow from these efforts. How often do your leads respond at all, and how many interfaces does it take to coax them into a decision? You need to relate this to response blocks and unsubscribes. After a while you will recognise the tipping point where it is pointless to continue.

Response Times relate closely to this. If your marketing people are hot then they should get a fast response to sales calls, email shots and live chats. It is essential to get back to the lead again as soon as possible. You are not the only company your customers are speaking too. Fortune belongs to the fast and fearless.

The purpose of marketing is to achieve Conversions, not generate data for the sake of it. You are paying for these interactions and should be getting more than page views. You need to drill down by department on this one too. If one team is outperforming another consider investing in interactive training.

Finally Funnel Drop-Off Rate. Funnel analysis identifies the points at which fish fall off the hook and seeks to understand why this is happening. If people click your links, make enquiries and then drift away, you have a different set of issues as opposed to if they do not respond at all.

You should be able to pull most of this information off your CRM system if it is half-decent, although you may need to trigger a few options and re orientate reporting by your people in the field. When you have your big data lined up speak to us. We have a range of data analysts brimming over with fresh ideas.

Systems Integration as a means to cost reduction

System integration in an organisation refers to a process whereby two or more separate systems are brought together for the purpose of pooling the value in the separate systems into one main system. A key component of process consolidation within any organisation is the utilisation of IT as a means to achieve this end. As such, system integration as a means to cost reduction offers organisations the opportunity to adopt and implement lean principles with the attendant benefits. The implementation of lean techniques requires an adherence to stated methods to facilitate the elimination of wastage in the production of goods and services. In summary, the lean philosophy seeks to optimise the speed of good and service production, through the elimination of waste.

While analysing some of the traditional sources of waste in organisational activities, things like overproduction, inventory, underutilised ideas, transmission of information and ideas, transportation of people and material, time wastage and over-processing stand out. The fact is that companies can eliminate a significant portion of waste through the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes within their organisation.

Adopting lean principles calls for the identification of all of the steps in the company value stream for each product family for the purpose of the eliminating the steps that do not create any value. In other words, this step calls for the elimination of redundant steps in the process flow. This is exactly what the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes offers a company. For instance, the adoption of a central cloud system across a large organisation with several facilities could increase efficiencies in that company. Such a company would drastically reduce the redundancies that used to exist in the different facilities, eliminate the instances of hardware and software purchase, maintenance and upgrade, modernise quality assurances processes and identify further opportunities for improvement.

Perhaps, from the company’s point of view, and from the perspective of lean process implementation, the most important factor is?the effect it has?on the bottom line.’reducing the number of hardware, eliminating the need for maintaining and upgrading hardware, removing the necessity for software purchase and upgrade across facilities also contributes to a significant reduction in operational costs.?This reduction in the cost of operations leads to a corresponding increase in the profit margin of the company.

Applying system integration as a means to cost reduction can also lead to the reduction in the number of people needed to operate the previous systems that have been integrated into one primary unit. Usually, companies must hire people with specialised knowledge to operate and maintain the various systems. Such employees must also receive special training and frequent ongoing education to constantly stay informed of the latest trends in process management. With the integration of the system, the number of people needed to maintain the central system will be significantly reduced, also improving the security of information and other company trade secrets.

Based on an analysis of the specific needs that exist in a particular company environment, a system integration method that is peculiar to the needs of that organisation will be worked out. Some companies may find it more cost-effective to use the services of independent cloud service providers. Others with more resources and facilities may decide to set up their own cloud service systems. Often, private cloud service system capabilities far exceed the requirements of the initiating company, meaning that they could decide to “sell” the extra “space” on their cloud network to other interested parties.

A company that fully applies the lean principles towards the integration of its systems will be able to take on additional tasks as a result of the system consolidation. This leads to an increase in performance, and more efficiency due to the seamless syncing of information in a timely and uniform manner.

Companies have to combine a top-down and a bottom-up approach towards their system integration methods. A top-down approach simply utilises the overall system structure that is already in place as a starting point, or as a foundation. The bottom-up approach seeks to design new systems for integration into the system. Other methods of system integration include the vertical, star and horizontal integration methods. In the horizontal method, a specified subsystem is used as an interface for communication between other subsystems. For the star system integration method, the subsystems are connected to the system in a manner that resembles the depiction of a star; hence, the name. Vertical integration refers to the method of the integration of subsystems based on an analysis of their functionality.

The key to successful system integration for the purpose of cost reduction is to take a manual approach towards identifying the various applicable lean principles, with respect to the system integration process. For instance, when value has been specified, it becomes easier to identify value streams. The other process of removing unnecessary or redundant steps will be easier to follow when the whole project is viewed from the whole, rather than’the part. Creating an integrated system needs some?patience?in order to work out kinks and achieve the desired perfect value that creates no waste.

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