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In his first law of motion, Sir Issac Newton stated that, “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”



While this law was intended to explain actions in the physical universe, it could easily apply to the corporate universe as well – particularly when it comes to Sarbanes-Oxley (aka SOX or Sarbox). This legislation, which recently went into effect for most organizations, is intended to increase confidence and assurance regarding the operations of large, public companies. Although Sarbox is broad and implementation-agnostic, many of the strategies that will meet its requirements can be drawn from best practices that will also improve the overall operations of the organization.

Yet like the proverbial Newtonian object flying through space, many of these same organizations would, given a choice, allow momentum to dictate their direction rather than expend the energy necessary to change course - even if on a collision course with a much larger object. As a result, many organizations are doing the minimum required for Sarbox compliance. They’re creating additional layers of bureaucracy and approvals “for audit purposes.” The results are entirely predictable – increased costs, more inefficiencies, and frustrated employees. These haphazard, reactionary compliance strategies not only cause stress, they may cause the organization to miss a tremendous growth opportunity creating a real competitive advantage.

Instead of complying reluctantly, smart organizations will take this opportunity to re-evaluate their processes and make changes, including the occasional wide sweeping and fundamental but painful ones that improve business operations. They’ll use Sarbox as a means to streamline their processes and auditing procedures through workflow automation, with compliance a natural byproduct.

Still, that’s not quite “apple hitting you on the head” revelation. Truly enlightened organizations will take it even a step further by embedding their auditing procedures right within those automated processes. With embedded auditing, the mere act of performing an action provides instant accountability and transparency. Auditing, therefore, becomes not an afterthought dependent on the good intentions of the person performing an act, but an integral part of the act itself. Having an automatically generated, real-time audit trail not only makes it easier to assure Sarbox compliance, but also creates a body of metrics that could lead to additional process improvements, lowered costs, and ultimately a better run business. That’s the kind of momentum you do want to gain.

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