It’s no secret that the global financial markets are experiencing unprecedented volatility. Given the current market conditions and concerns about the growing pandemic, the first quarter and possibly the second are likely to be particularly challenging from an accounting and reporting perspective for many companies.
Specifically, the questions you have, surely swirl around accounting for (both literally and figuratively) the impact on taxes, revenue recognition, inventory, debt, and budgeting and of course, considerations related to internal control over financial reporting.
But as organizations of all sizes take the necessary actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, traditional finance processes may never look the same again. How can finance functions create new working practices, keep employees safe and also finalize the numbers and close the books on time?
This much has become painfully obvious. Depending on the industry and with very few exceptions, many companies are seeing significantly lower revenues which is resulting in less cash flow, which is in turn delaying receivables collection as needs grow to step up payables to important suppliers. Meaning, the pecking order for payables has been set and the trickle-down effect has been immense. In addition, re-budgeting and re-forecasting now become tantamount to the survival of the business.
With that being said, if you haven’t already, you will need to take a serious look at your financial analytics in order understand and plan for the financial reporting considerations that are resulting from COVID-19. This starts with evaluating financial reporting requirements from afar. The fact is many finance leaders are now faced with an unprecedented task in the coming weeks: closing the books on a turbulent first quarter with most or all of their finance staff and auditors working remotely. The good news is that it can be done.
Clearly, as things evolve and slowly come into view, companies will need to continuously evaluate financial reporting needs and resources as well as financial budgeting considerations, as everything has now been turned upside down. This includes evaluating the impact of remote work arrangements and other staffing matters on the company’s financial reporting systems, including its internal controls over financial reporting and its disclosure controls and procedures. The most likely and logical way to address the current challenge of financial reporting would be to move all of those activities to the cloud.
This includes assessing internal and external audit needs. Management and audit teams should have contingency plans in place with both internal and external audit teams to ensure appropriate audit requirements can be met. The fact of the matter is that today’s auditor knows there’s never been a more challenging time to monitor and meet evolving regulatory changes as they collide with a cataclysmic event of biblical proportions. And with emerging technologies like data analytics, machine learning, AI, and blockchain threatening to forever change the face of the accounting industry, firms that can focus more on innovation such as cloud computing, can set themselves up for the next generation of audit automation and the next great life changing event without missing a beat.
To that point, internal and external audit teams are unfortunately now in the process of considering the impact of remote working arrangements on the fly, as well as protocols that can eliminate or minimize on-site visits or access to documents (e.g., physical inventory observations). Thus, the benefits and impact of cloud computing for finance and accounting teams is now front and center and needs to be seriously evaluated.