Financial standards: how to pass your audit
Financial standards: how to pass your audit
By Lisa Arthur, Chief Marketing Officer of Aprimo
Financial accountability is becoming more and more important for organisations and has come under scrutiny in the past decade particularly. The US introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) imposed various standards and this was followed in 2004 in Australia with the Corporate Law Economic Reform Program (CLERP).
These regulations demand of organisations stricter procedures for financial reporting, raising the bar on financial accountability across all areas of the organisation to insure they remain in compliance. However, marketing departments in particular can struggle with proving accountability.
This is largely owing to the challenge of managing a huge amount of data. It has become vital to keep detailed records of data by establishing standardised processes, centralising information and fostering successful collaboration and accountability.
So how can marketers guarantee peace of mind, ensuring that the marketing department remains in compliance with financial reporting requirements?
Comprehensive financial controls
Put in place processes and software that captures the financial aspects of your marketing projects. Make sure you allow for detailed procedures to manage access rights, to create and document business rules that apply to marketing projects and to ensure appropriate reviews and approvals. Capture information about budgeting, purchasing, payables and measurement.
Marketing plans are developed to meet business objectives, and they typically feature a list of campaigns and initiatives that the marketing team will execute to meet those objectives. Create a standard process to review and approve quickly and easily all marketing initiatives in terms of budget, resources needed and alignment with objectives.
Put a process in place for the review and approval for both the concept and the financial plan for each marketing initiative, and provide business rules to ensure objectivity in the review and approval process. These controls apply to activities as complex as integrated marketing campaigns (for example, broadcast, print and direct-to-consumer) or as simple as a new point-of-sale brochure.
Spreadsheets can only do so much. You need to manage marketing budgets that include forecasted spend, committed expenses, paid expense and more. Further, spreadsheets do not make it easy for you to reconcile the data with your accounting system or remain in sync with the general ledger.
Centralise all of your marketing financial information and integrate it with your accounting software, connecting all the dots to provide a holistic financial picture. That way, managers can view financial plans and performance in the format that are meaningful to them and their organisation while still attending to external financial reporting.
Legal reviews made easy
For online reviews, establish a process that can easily bring a broader multi-disciplined team to the virtual table so that you have a variety of expertise, such as legal, customer service and so on. Record comments and approval information for creative elements, copy and other marketing deliverables.
This valuable audit trail tracks comprehensively every review. It ensures the legal use of images and the compliance of claims included in print and electronic marketing materials. Because you decide who has the authority to review and approve materials, you establish a repeatable framework for legal compliance.
Take ownership of your brand assets with a program and process that allows you to store and manage anything from raw images to finished brand content. Create subscriber lists to notify appropriate people when a change is made to an asset. Set use restrictions to dictate how individuals may use it and include expiration dates to control the duration for its use.
How to get started
Many organisations today have found that managing marketing workflow is a nightmare without suitable software and expert processes. Aprimo provides software and services that enhance the productivity of marketing departments by aligning people, process and technology. This helps organisations develop internal controls and review procedures.
The important thing is: don’t be afraid of increased reporting standards! They foster ethical workplaces and customer trust. Manage your data with clear-cut processes and effective software, and you will meet or exceed the requirements of financial audits.