App helps companies govern financial resources and improve regulatory compliance with intelligent automation
CHICAGO — Grant Thornton LLP has launched cta.x — an app that allows companies and auditors to rapidly develop and deploy automated internal-controls tests, helping them comply with laws and regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley. It will also help companies garner new insights from their internal-compliance efforts and increase the return-on-investment in their controls testing.
“Controls testing is traditionally conducted by a human being assessing evidence and manually analyzing data in a spreadsheet or system for governance, risk and compliance,” said Ethan Rojhani, a partner in the Risk Advisory practice at Grant Thornton. “The cta.x app automates and integrates controls testing by taking existing assurance processes and applying them to the full population of procedures and policies governing controls. It then pipes the data through Grant Thornton’s proprietary logic engine and produces testing results in sophisticated, customizable dashboards.”
Grant Thornton’s Risk Advisory professionals will administer and use the cta.x app as part of their client-service delivery, while the firm’s clients will also be able to directly access and use cta.x.
Grant Thornton has built cta.x using proprietary cloud-based software, which the firm, or client-staff auditors, configure to perform test procedures on controls data. The app can also help a company identify discrepancies before they threaten data quality or business reputation. It accepts controls data that Grant Thornton has mapped to a standard model and then provides the flexibility to tailor-test procedures to specific controls attributes.
The firm can deploy cta.x in a client-specific environment within Grant Thornton’s software-as-a-service model, or in the client’s own environment.
A new way to test effectiveness
Historically, controls testing lacks real-time capabilities, which means companies cannot identify exceptions until after the testing is complete. This makes it harder for them to effectively manage risks and compliance activities, and it limits the upside benefits of controls testing.
Greg Haberer, a senior manager in the Risk Advisory practice at Grant Thornton, explains that cta.x remedies these shortcomings: “Our app adds intelligent automation at the front end of the controls-testing process. This increases efficiency and shifts the compliance focus from manual tasks, such as data gathering and manipulation, to higher-value activities like anomaly detection and root-cause analysis.”
With cta.x, companies can realize several benefits:
- They can spend less time and budget on low-value testing activities, such as documentation and evidence preparation.
- They can shorten test cycles and conduct tests more frequently — receiving test results in minutes and hours instead of weeks and months.
- They can detect anomalies in near real-time and respond to them quickly.
- They can increase the breadth of their assurance efforts by more quickly analyzing voluminous transactions.
- They can gain performance-related insights delivered in interactive dashboards, and access detailed reports that highlight trends over time.
The cta.x app is integral to Grant Thornton’s overall approach to controls testing, which the firm has built on a three-step framework: Gather and prepare data; perform test procedures; and report the results.
“There are many benefits to controls-test automation, but to fully realize them, companies need to have the experience and knowledge to automate things correctly,” notes Rojhani. “With cta.x, we’re combining our first-of-its-kind tools with Grant Thornton’s proven formula for controls testing. This changes the controls-testing equation and helps our clients take risk mitigation and efficiency to higher levels.”
Companies have shown a growing interest in automating their controls testing: A recent Grant Thornton survey of chief financial officers reveals that almost one-third (32 percent) claim their organizations have already deployed technology to automate their controls testing, while almost one-third more (29 percent) plan to do so within the next 12 months.
Another alyx platform innovation
Grant Thornton developed cta.x with the help of alyx™, a digital platform it recently launched for transformation and innovation. The platform is available to all of Grant Thornton’s service professionals so they can help quickly solve specific business problems for clients with new and emerging technologies.
The alyx platform uses a ‘concierge-enabled’ system that methodically shares business problems with teams of subject-matter specialists and technologists. These teams subsequently develop solutions by combining know-how in Grant Thornton’s core service areas — accounting, tax and consulting — with technologies such as intelligent automation, data extraction, data cleansing, analytics and blockchain.
Grant Thornton has used alyx to develop several new offerings that marry innovation and knowledge. These include:
- te.x — An implementation platform for sophisticated tax engines.
- ptvault.x — A platform that helps companies manage personal-property taxes.
- SOC.x — A platform to more efficiently produce reports covering System and Organization Controls, better known as SOC reports.
Grant Thornton expects to launch several additional offerings in the coming months that it commercializes through its alyx platform.
“Our alyx platform is integral to Grant Thornton’s efforts to digitize our clients’ business-critical functions, from risk management to operational efficiency,” said Joseph Brown, Grant Thornton’s national managing partner of Market Innovation and Release Management. “This is all about identifying the real-world challenges our clients face, and then solving them with cutting-edge solutions that we can scale across disciplines and industries.”
For more information about cta.x, visit www.grantthornton.com/ctax.
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