Client collaboration comes with some core challenges: smooth and timely communication, client satisfaction, managing the workload for the auditor and audit team and keeping oversight of the different communications, files, and comments such as exceptions.
How was McCabe Ford Williams handling this before Circit? Sam: “Before Circit, we were using a cloud document sharing platform. We would upload all client information there, but one of the main challenges was all the different ways in which we obtained data from the client. For example, I may have been on-site, in which case I would have spoken to the finance manager face to face and then they would hand me the required documents, and there may have been telephone conversations or emails with myself or another member of the audit team. This leads to a lot of different types of information being provided in many different places.
Keeping things organised soon became a challenge. “Keeping yourself organised is part of the job, but the minute you forget something, the trouble starts. Maintaining a central spreadsheet is time consuming and when you start mixing in other formats, such as a phone conversation with the client, it’s easy to lose track of where you are. Human error is almost inevitable in that case.”
Another common hurdle auditors and their teams deal with is client responsiveness. A poor flow of information can result in missed deadlines.
“The thing we use every day is the PBC list. It is very easy to send off all of our initial requests to clients well in advance ahead of the audit starting: I can log on there today and within 10 minutes I can review and roll forward all of the PBC requests from last year – this includes changing any deadline dates and assignees. That only takes 10-20 minutes and ensures it’s all there.”
“On occasions we would have asked for something and we would not hear back on it for two weeks and the client would respond saying they were not aware the information was requested. Previously at that stage, if the request had been in person or a phone call, I could not prove that I had requested the information in the first place. Through putting each request on Circit there is a clear audit trail which has helped eradicate this issue.”
Not only that, but without centralised information issues can arise when a member of the audit team is on holiday or otherwise unavailable. In that case, their emails, phone calls and notes can’t be accessed.
Looking for improvements
How did McCabe Ford Williams start looking for a better way to work when these challenges became apparent? “We were looking for efficiencies to help recoverability whilst providing a professional service and improving client relationships. Circit was recommended by one of the managers. Before he joined McCabe Ford Williams, he had used Circit, and he knew it would improve our situation straight away.”
With swift buy-in from senior leadership, there wasn’t a need to convince staff members that using Circit was the best way forward.
Client responses were also positive from the start. “In audit, everyone you work with will be a finance manager or a finance director or an individual who will be familiar with technology. That said, you do get some clients that are a bit more old-fashioned, that previously have preferred sending certain items in inefficient methods, but even these clients have responded to Circit positively. Most of our clients are open to using technology though, because they experience the same issues that we experienced: loads of emails, having to filter through that.”
“Circit has a very good interface and it's straightforward to understand, so clients picked it up quickly. The platform allows all members of the audit team to stay in the loop. Our clients that have started using it, are enjoying it.”
Implementation and beyond
Though Circit was recommended to McCabe Ford Williams internally by an employee, there were still selection criteria in place to ensure the to-be-implemented technology ticked all the boxes. The new solution would have to help prevent human error, prevent wasted time and provide a clear information trail, accessible by all.
“The main reason to bring in a new vendor is to be more efficient: get your jobs done faster, don’t waste as much time on admin items and keep your clients happy. We found all of that in Circit. For auditors, when we are doing a job, it's really busy and intense. Anything that's going to take some of that stress away is always going to be well accepted. That's definitely what Circit does, it takes off stress of having to manage all this information and it keeps it centrally recorded.”
The new platform was quickly embraced by staff and clients alike. “As with any new system, at first everything is different, and it takes some getting used to. But looking at Circit now, I know where everything is, everything makes sense to me. It’s a really good interface, it’s very user friendly and if you know where these things are, then you'll sort it out in minutes.”
So how is Circit being used at McCabe Ford Williams?
“The thing we use every day is the PBC list. It is very easy to send off all of our initial requests to clients well in advance ahead of the audit starting: I can just log on there today and within 10-20 minutes I can review and roll forward all of the PBC requests from last year – this includes changing any deadline dates and assignees.”
Though information now flows freely at McCabe Ford Williams, there is also another side to this.
“A challenge we do have is that things can feel a bit informal sometimes. In an email, you spend more time on the pleasantries, but now we just fire over a quick message or just say thanks. The good side of this is you can send things out quickly and you don’t have to spend time emailing. As a result, we have started to make a conscious effort to call the client or have Teams calls throughout the audit to keep the relationship outside of an online chat box.”
With audits having moved to being mostly or fully remote after Covid, client connection has been harder to establish, though the advantages of swift, clear and uncomplicated communications far outweigh the disadvantages.
“From the information side, we can make sure we get what we need and we’re able to show we've asked for things. If you’re then able to say: ‘On this date, I asked you for this and this, do you have an update?’ which provides clarity for all parties.”
McCabe Ford Williams has come a long way from cloud file sharing to fully embracing client collaboration improvements leveraged through Circit.
With satisfied clients, relationships are more easily maintained, firm reputation is boosted and more time is spent on the audit work as opposed to admin time. These very tangible benefits make a difference for the clients of McCabe Ford Williams and allow it to stay the modern and innovative firm it set out to be in 1936 more than 80 years later, and beyond.