A central challenge for any sales audit function is the difficulty of acquiring and processing multiple data sets across differentaccounting/operational platforms. For a professional sales audit provider like Salitix, what it means is a complex operational planning environment to manage the acquisition and processing of multiple data sets across any calendar year if we are to deliver all of the reviews we need to do in any 12 month period.
Our Operations Director, Toby Topcott is the person responsible for bringing this together and making sure that we are acquiring the data we need, well in advance of when we want to audit with it, while preparing a rolling audit plan that will the deliver the reconciliations within the specific time-frames available. It’s a plan that is in constant flux as events on the ground determine what can and cannot be done at any given time. Flexibility is critical, along with precise planning well in advance of any audit work.
Toby needs any number of audits ready and available to audit in order to maximise audit time when a planned audit is delayed for any number of reasons – like a missing data set, or an instruction by our client not to audit, etc. To make this a reality, there are several factors in constant focus:
- The frequency of data acquisition, because how often we data from our clients and when, materially influences what we can audit at any time. This can have implications where we have completed the audits for a specific trading year and would like to move to the following trading year but cannot because the data required is not yet available.
How and when our client makes data available to us is therefore of critical importance, with automated processes and routines delivering monthly, or bi-monthly updates the most efficient method for capturing standard datasets, like the sales ledger, emails, Epos etc. Because the Retailer has its own year-end that may differ from the suppliers, it is easy to see how timing of data acquisition is key.
- How long certain data-sets are made available for retrieval/download, particularly from Retailer portals, like EPOS data. Because there are limited windows for retrieving some data, Salitix needs to be one step ahead of these deadlines to make sure we are collecting the necessary data to perform a review before that data is ‘lost’ and no longer readily available to our client for this purpose.
This creates significant planning pressure, especially for new clients, on our administration team to capture data to very specific time frames, which in turn has significant knock-on effects on how the audit plan is constructed and then amended when it needs to change for a variety of reasons.
- Voluntary 2yr plus current time limitations with GSCOP regulated retailers, i.e. 13 retailers with time restrictions, which introduces a hard deadline for when any claims must be submitted to the Retailers audit function for validation.
These deadlines influence many operational decisions on what gets audited and when, while it is the case that even with exceptional planning, there are times when the deadline passes and no audit has been conducted. This reality has the effect of amplifying the importance of all the other factors that will potentially impact on our audit plan. To mitigate the impact, we split different audits into different Tiers: Tier 1 are the priority, are allocated more audit time, form the bulk of the structured audit plan and require significant amounts of data to be processed to execute. Tier 2 and 3 audits will normally involve less data, less audit time and audit focus on contract compliance, or other tertiary reviews that are less dependent on traditional data sets to perform. These audits are often held in reserve to be actioned when a gap in the main plan forces a change at short notice.
- Our sales audit work is generally independent of the audit work being conducted by the Retailers auditor. However, if our client receives a significant claim from their customer, this can and does sometimes require Salitix to prioritise a sales audit reconciliation to facilitate a defence of the claim being made, which in turn will lead to a change in audit plan at short notice and emphasises why our audit plan must be flexible.
What the above points reveal is a dynamic working environment that is subject to constant change and flux, and is therefore a very bespoke operational process. It is a full-time occupation making sure that we are in position to audit every day, 365 days a year. It also means that we are constantly seeking to innovate and develop our audit capabilities to help us deliver more high quality audit work, in more time and resource efficient ways.
What Salitix do and deliver for our clients is not easy to replicate. At its core, Salitix is two things, a data processing operation, with substantial experience and capability in our ability to capture and process a huge volume of different data-sets, which requires pin-point planning to deliver effectively within the constraints I describe above. Our ability to do this with precision and skill is why we are and will always remain, a commercial auditor, whose auditors therefore have the time and experience to identify the nuanced positions that will often reveal the biggest claims, something that remains an experienced based skill.
Get in touch to see how your business can take advantage of these unique skills.