Emerging Stronger from the Pandemic

August 13, 2020

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In the final episode of the Remote Workforce Challenges podcast series, Nina Kelleher, a director in Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions, speaks with Jerry Ravi, the firm wide service area leader for Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions, and Michael Rose, partner in Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions. They  highlight some ways for organizations to move forward and emerge stronger.


Transcript

Nina Kelleher: Hello, and welcome to EisnerAmper's podcast series on remote workforce challenges as a result of COVID-19. I'm your host Nina Kelleher. And today we'll be speaking with Jerry Ravi and Michael Rose. Jerry is the firm wide service area leader for Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions and Michael is a partner in Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions. In a previous podcast in the series, we discuss remote workforce challenges around fraud risks. I'd like to focus on the positive takeaways gained from this experience. What are some of the lessons learned and innovations that clients have taken advantage?

Jerry Ravi:Thanks Nina. This is Jerry and welcome to the podcast everyone. What I would say is one of the key factors in our process risk and technology solutions practice for the firm is we're always providing clients with peace of mind around risks and opportunities. And clearly COVID-19 and the pandemic have given us a lot of thought around the risks that we face as well as certainly the opportunities. And I will tell you, there are a lot of opportunities and good lessons learned here.

And the first part that I'll speak about is really the people. In essence, it starts with people and people really stepping up across all industries and that's what we're seeing across our clients. They're there to help each other, they have been helping each other. They're providing more value in what's being called and unprecedented time.

And it's a time for change. And that's the real key here is understanding how we deal with change and how we adapt and I really want to focus on that as part of this question, because employees are really finding ways to do things differently. Whether it's leveraging technology to ease the pain points, they're using automation more, they're accelerating the use of automation and digital solutions and even robotics.

And that's what we're seeing with our clients and actually guiding them through that process and helping them identify those areas very quickly and rapidly to implement those types of solutions. And that even includes all the different areas of returning to the office now that that's starting to happen in certain areas and jurisdictions. So although disruptive, there's a lot that's going on and people have actually figured out how to work remotely and be effective at it.

They've done a lot of trial and error. They're looking at their peers, they're seeing how different things are set up, even in those companies where the infrastructure may not have been in place at the beginning of this, they've learned how to quickly again, adapt to it and bring those solutions to the table and again, work with each other as teams. And I think teams have come closer together as part of this. And that's really important to recognize as we're looking at all the different things that we're learning for this series of months and weeks and who knows how long it will be.

Mike, you want to add to that in terms of what we're seeing on the technology?
MR: Absolutely. Thanks, Jerry. From my perspective, I think one of the biggest takeaways that I've seen and also with my clients is that most of them have the infrastructure in place to allow employees to work remotely initially and continually as we move forward.

Companies also can now consider reducing overhead by maximizing office space, by creating flexible work schedules, and making sure that they're really looking at their overhead as they go forward. As you mentioned Gary, companies are leveraging technology and it's through automation, robotics, data analytics, and this will continue. The pace of digital transformation now has dramatically accelerated. One area that we see that showing growth is predictive analytics and business intelligence. The way companies were conventionally forecasting, it's just not enough anymore. It's not giving them the ability to change course quickly.

Another area is continuous controls monitoring. As working remotely has made the need for automating controls critical as manual controls in many cases cannot be accomplished, not in the office, working remotely. So there's definitely a need to develop user-friendly interfaces and cyber security protocols that will keep pace with the growing reliance on this digital transformation, digital communication that's in place now. As well as heavily investing in bandwidth to make it all possible.
JR: And that's really important, Mike. I would say that from an organizational level, we call these lines of defenses where the first line can certainly talk about and spend time and have the responsibility and accountability over controls and maintaining those controls and processes so the people, as I mentioned in going with the technology and the process behind it all, has created different capabilities inside our own four walls and infrastructure. And that adaptability and change has really helped a lot of different companies look at things differently like you said. Continuous controls monitoring is now at the forefront and also dashboards and predictive analytics and that's really important that we see that through.
NK: Mike, what are some of the biggest challenges and concerns that you're seeing with organizations transitioning back to the office or deciding to continue this remote paradigm?
MR: This is a critical question that we're all dealing with right now. I think that organizations really need to foster an environment that employees feel safe. They feel safe coming back to the office. They feel safe that the protocols that organizations are preparing and putting in place are matching from an actual perspective what the things we see is suggesting.

Determining the right mix of in house or remote workforce critical and this may vary. It probably will vary by industry company and location and productivity levels will be critical. And I think that continuing to look at and setting productivity goals, whether it's working remotely or back to the office and not missing a beat, meeting existing timelines, or even doing better with those existing timelines, and continued communication to identify situations, really that can have a significant effect on productivity overall.

And lastly, I think that balancing how to stay physically apart, even in the office, but emotionally connected, is critical and the organization must convey consistent messaging within the organization itself. And also make sure that that messaging matches the requirements within the locality itself. I've seen where organizations have laid out certain protocols, but it's not matching what the jurisdiction or locality is communicating on a public basis. 
NK:What are some of the solutions you envisioned to the issues mentioned?
MR: I think there will be some increased reliance on technology, automation, robotics, analytics, and video conferencing as we talked about earlier. Directly focusing on how technology platforms can influence and help with productivity will be critical as organizations move forward. Think also organizations must be conscious of both employee and business needs, as there's not a one size fits all as seen as we've gone through this. And companies should continue to revisit their business continuity plans as they definitely can change as we move forward with this. Increasing town halls and virtual meetings will definitely foster inclusivity and togetherness and I think at this time that's critical for organizations to be able to move forward.
NK:Jerry, can you talk a little bit about some of the steps that EisnerAmper and you yourself are taking to emerge?
JR: Absolutely. I would tell you I've been with the firm 16 years. I just had my 16th year anniversary actually. And I've never been more proud to be at the firm than now because of how we've come together and talking about people, that was the beginning. It's really all about the people and keeping our people safe. So, spent a lot of time communicating to everybody around the firm what we were doing every step of the way, whether it was daily and even multiple times per day.

We surveyed employees to hear how comfortable they were with coming back to the office and even going to clients. And that's important because look, we are in a client service business and we want to understand how we can interact with our clients differently. We're also looking at a lot of different areas around flexibility and making sure that we can deal with those that are returning to the office if they are comfortable, there's all sorts of guidelines and procedures to make it easy for them to come back with distancing and certainly even the technology that we've built.

We have an app that we've built internally where employees can go into to see what the procedures are and also check in and do a lot of other things to make sure that we're interacting with them. So, really proud that we were able to spin that up very quickly. And the communication is very key. And I will tell you on the scheduling side, I think having a rotation is important in making sure that everybody understands that we can be in the office, we just have to make sure that we follow these guidelines and we have to be flexible and adapt to whatever's happening in the environment.
Nina Kelleher: Any last words you want to leave the audience with?
JR:Yeah, I would say, Mike had mentioned a lot of great things and Nina, I know you've talked about it on other podcasts. Ultimately it's all about communication and togetherness. That's the piece that makes me the most proud, is being together with each other and making sure we're going through this with each other and helping each other.

So, that along with the flexibility and adapting to the change as the most important. I will say we've been very resilient through this and as we rely on each other, I would take resilience and turn that into also reliance because we're relying on each other too. It's not an individual thing here, it's a team effort. And ultimately my last words are, if we're working as a team and even that goes with our clients, working with them, we'll all do great and we'll come out of this much stronger.
NK: Jerry and Mike, thank you for this valuable information. And thank you for listening to the EisnerAmper podcast series. For more information on this and a host of other topics, visit eisneramper.com/PRTS.

 

About Jerry Ravi

Jerry Ravi is a Partner and Practice Leader specializing in Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions (PRTS). His focus is Enterprise Risk Management ERM and internal audit and compliance. He assists in designing enterprise risk management programs ERM which include deploying risk-based internal audit plans to enhance governance processes and monitor on-going compliance.

About Michael P. Rose

Michael Rose is a Partner in Process, Risk and Technology Solutions Group, and National Practice Leader for the firm’s CFIUS Advisory Services. Michael specializes in internal audit, internal and controls, governance and risk management.

About Nina Kelleher

Nina Kelleher is a Director specializing in Process, Risk, and Technology Solutions (PRTS) with expertise includes planning, executing and leading audits, conducting risk assessments and completing financial statement due diligence.

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