11 posts categorized "Lindsay Patterson" Feed

The secret to less copying and pasting – Robotic Process Automation

GettyImages-459689741Remember the last time you copied information from one system and put it into another? Wasn’t that three hours of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V fun? It wasn’t? Sounds like you might want to look at robotic process automation (RPA) then.

The name is long and slightly intimidating, but the actual use of RPA isn’t. Despite the name, the technology is accessible and easily integrated into your existing platforms. It increases efficiency and reduces mistakes. This means you can be more productive and can spend more time using your higher-value skills like data analysis.

So how can you get started using RPA?

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Three things your firm needs to get started with SOC services

Shutterstock_611298710In an era of near-daily cyberattacks, organizations increasingly need to show they are protecting sensitive data—and they are turning to CPAs to help them do so.

SOC reporting isn’t something auditors should learn on the job or figure out as they go, though. If you’ve been thinking about expanding your firm’s offerings to include Service and Organization Control (SOC) engagements, there are a few things you need first.

  1. You need to be knowledgeable in the service area

Specialized knowledge of an industry or organization is vital for understanding where risks are, assessing those risks and adjusting procedures to the appropriate risk level. As such, focus your SOC practice on areas with which you are already familiar.

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These tools can automate parts of your audit

GettyImages-850496336You’ve heard a lot about data analytics. But do you know how to use them to automate parts of your audit? From journal entry testing to inventory counts, a new AICPA mapping guide shows you how data analytic products on the market today align with general audit procedures.

The free Audit Data Analytics to Audit Procedures mapping document provides a direct link for nearly 100 audit procedures, covering areas like risk assessment, journal entries, accounts receivable, inventory, intangibles, accounts payable, income taxes, and more.

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SOC 2 reports get an update

SOC 2 updatesSOC 2® standards have been updated. If you perform these engagements, you need to check out the recently updated SOC 2 guide to make sure you are performing these services according to AICPA standards.

Released last month, the updated guide is a “how to” for service auditors performing SOC 2 examinations to report on a service organization’s system controls relevant to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentially, or privacy. There are three major updates practitioners will want to pay attention to:

  1. Alignment with clarified attestation standards
    The guide conforms with the updated SSAE No. 18 (Clarified Attestation Standards) – meaning it is a vital tool for practitioners to use in developing standards-compliant reports. For example, it includes updated information on requirements related to requesting written assertions and performing risk assessments.

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4 new opportunities blockchain could create for auditors

Blockchain 2In case you haven’t heard, blockchain technology has the potential to change the auditing profession. A new whitepaper co-authored by the American Institute of CPAs details what opportunities could emerge for auditors.

Not sure what blockchain is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a digital, distributed ledger that contains every transaction since its creation. Once transactions are entered, they can’t be changed or deleted. Every user on a blockchain has an identical version of the ledger, and all copies are updated automatically when a new transaction occurs. Each entry refers back to the previous entry across all versions, creating a “chain” of information.

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Your five-step guide for using data analytics in an audit

Data analyticsYour clients have a lot of information. And you, being the forward-thinking CPA that you are, want to use new technologies and techniques to get the most out of that data. So where do you begin?

Audit data analytics (ADAs) is a great place to start. Using tools you already have – Excel, for example – you can analyze entire populations, find anomalies and identify patterns. To help you on your way, we’ve outlined five basic steps for planning, performing and evaluating the results of an ADA used to perform an audit procedure.

  1. Plan the ADA.

The first step is to develop a solid plan. Figure out what information you’ll be reviewing and what you want to get out of it. Are you performing a risk assessment procedure, substantive analytical procedure, or test of details? Or are you seeking to form an overall conclusion from the audit? Once you know your objective, then think about the population of data you have available. Give preliminary consideration to how available, relevant and reliable it is (you’ll consider this in more detail in step 3). Finally, identify which specific ADA procedures, techniques and tools you’ll use.

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Five movies that (kind of) predicted cybercrimes

HackersEquifax. The Securities and Exchange Commission. Whole Foods. These are just a few of the hacking incidents that have made the news in recent weeks. Although organizations are becoming increasingly concerned about their cybersecurity in the wake of current reports, Hollywood has been warning us for years about the importance of keeping our data safe. The following five movies are not only entertaining, they also acted as a crystal ball of sorts by giving us a glimpse into the possibility of today’s cyber events.

Movie: “The Net” (1995)

Lesson: Your personal data is your most important possession.

“The Net” warns of what can happen when your data falls into the wrong hands. When systems analyst Angela Bennett receives a disk from a colleague, she inadvertently sets off a chain of events that leads to her social security number being reassigned to another name, her home being sold out from under her and an arrest for a litany of crimes she didn’t commit—not to mention the mysterious deaths of people around her who know about the disk.

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Most Passwords Are Easy to Guess. Do This Instead.

Password2You’re doing your passwords all wrong.

So says the developer of the guidelines most internet users have been following for 15 years, anyway. Passwords that L00K l!ke tHi$ are actually much more susceptible to hacking than most people realize, says Bill Burr, former manager of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and author of the NIST’s 2003 recommendations for password management.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Burr said that his previous advice to use numbers, symbols and randomized capitalization resulted in people creating passwords that are easy for computers to predict.

A more secure option is to use four random words, such as “that purple monkey dishwasher.” Such a phrase is actually much more complicated for computers to guess, The Wall Street Journal reports. (Cartoonist Randall Munroe explained the math in a comic six years ago.)

Some password advice remains relevant, however: avoid using birthdays or anniversaries, your kids’ names or your address, as all of this information is easy for hackers to locate. Additionally, use different passwords for each of your accounts and avoid storing them where they can be easily seen or stolen.

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5 Technologies Transforming CPA Practices

Shutterstock_150531497One message keeps coming up at the AICPA ENGAGE Conference: technology is changing the profession, and CPAs have countless opportunities to incorporate it into their practice. Across conference sessions, conversations keep coming back to the ways practitioners can benefit from deploying to the cloud, embracing social media, providing cybersecurity-related services, using mobile devices and understanding big data. Here’s how: 

1) The Cloud 

In a recent Facebook Live session, conference presenter Jim Bourke discussed the many ways the cloud can improve a CPA’s practice. It allows staff from around the country to work together to serve clients. It houses data without the burden of purchasing dedicated servers and the infrastructure and personnel to maintain them. It gives CPAs access to client information anytime and anywhere. And it keeps that information secure. “Data is more secure on the cloud than it is sitting in your own office,” Bourke said. 

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That Time I Told Mark Cuban He Was Wrong About the CPA Profession

Mark cuban 1Last Wednesday afternoon, I read that Mark Cuban said he would not want to be a CPA right now because advances in technology mean it isn’t a profession for the future.

Wednesday night, I sacrificed sleep so I could write a lengthy blog post explaining how Mr. Cuban clearly didn’t consider the many ways the accounting profession is getting ahead of change and anticipating the future needs of the marketplace.

And by Thursday afternoon, I was explaining my argument to him in person.

How?

I was editing the first draft of my blog post on Thursday when a colleague walked into my office to announce that, according to rumor, Mr. Cuban was in the lobby of our office building at that very moment. Could life be so serendipitous that I could get a photo with the subject of my blog post? Naturally, I had to investigate.

The lobby of our office building was quite empty that day, so I immediately saw that the rumors were true. Sitting right there in front of me was the individual that had caused my writing fury. He was engaged in a conversation, but made eye contact with me and smiled kindly. I took that as my opportunity to introduce myself.

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CPAs with Clients in the Marijuana Industry Need to Consider Risks

MarijuanaOn Nov. 8, voters in nine states will consider ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana – a move that could create new businesses that will need CPA services. However, conflicting federal and state laws mean that CPAs have to carefully consider the risks of providing services to these businesses. The AICPA spoke with Stan Sterna, vice president for Aon Insurance Services, the national administrator of the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program, and Mike Komoll, assistant vice president of professional service claims for CNA, the underwriter of the AICPA Program, to discuss key considerations for CPAs providing services to the expanding marijuana industry.

Which states are considering legalizing marijuana in November, and why might CPAs be interested?

Sterna: Five states – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – will vote whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana, while four states – Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota – will consider legalizing medicinal marijuana. In the 26 states and jurisdictions where marijuana is already sold legally, businesses in this industry have increasingly sought out accounting and tax services. CPAs in any states that pass marijuana initiatives next week will likely start seeing similar requests, which makes sense when you consider the size of the industry.

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