Excel on Steroids
Product: CaseWare IDEA®
Audit Function: Data Analysis
On Record: Matt Storlie, Manager of Forensic & Litigation & Risk Advisory Services
Matt Storlie has been using CaseWare IDEA on and off during his career for 15 years, and at Wipfli for three years. As such, he’s working on a firmwide initiative to adopt IDEA throughout Wipfli in a more uniform manner, as he feels it’s the ideal tool for data analytics in an audit.
“The primary reason we want to initiate firmwide adoption would be its ease of use,” Storlie said. “It does not require extensive training to get up and running. It’s straightforward, and almost mimics Microsoft Excel, so it’s an easy transition to use IDEA right out of the box. We do provide training for our staff, but we find a lot of users can use some functionality right away with not a lot of training.”
Wipfli is an Accounting Today Top 100 Firm, with 47 offices throughout the United States and approximately 2,500 employees. It also merges in smaller firms regularly. This is part of the reason why software doesn’t necessarily get implemented in a blanket manner across the firm’s offices, and also why ease of use and implementation is important.
While Storlie wasn’t at Wipfli during initial implementation, the firm did go through a major upgrade with IDEA recently, from Version 9 to 10. The upgrade went very smoothly, Storlie said, and the firm didn’t have to contact the CaseWare helpdesk at all. It helps that Storlie, who is an experienced user, was on hand to manage the transition. He tested V10 himself for a couple of months before implementation.
Storlie likes to call IDEA “Excel and Access on steroids” because of how powerful the software is.
“IDEA provides very powerful analytics capabilities. You can combine and import multiple data sets into the package; it can join tables together and perform analysis with multiple tables; its import functionality is also very powerful. It can import common data types like CSVs from Excel, as well as from Adobe PDF files. It also has a powerful ETL — extract, transform and load — tool.”
Storlie also said that the upgrade to V10 included powerful data visualization and back-end reporting functionality built right into the software.
“The visualization piece is a unique spin — usually you have to take the data out and put it into a visualization tool,” he said. “With IDEA, you bring data in and it makes beautiful graphical reporting which is also interactive. They’ve also built a dashboard called the Discover, which automatically tries to build a shareable visualization dashboard for you based on the data you’re analyzing — it’s not perfect, but you have a starting point from which to change or tweak.”
In the same way, IDEA builds the dashboard based on the data that a user is analyzing, it can also automate tasks by tracking the sequence of tasks a user performs and “remembering” the pathway for future use.
“The ability to automate and dynamically run tasks once you standardize the data is very cool,” Storlie said. “As a fraud and forensics guy, I have to make sure the system doesn’t alter data in any way. The software pulls in data and doesn’t touch the underlying data/file, and every move in the platform is tracked. It’s great for fraud and forensics, and it helps turn your tasks into a script as you go.”
As a bonus, the aforementioned helpdesk is “phenomenal,” Storlie added. Their rule is if it takes more than 20 minutes to figure something out in IDEA, you call the helpdesk and CaseWare has a live person on with you immediately to help.
One of the main challenges Storlie is grappling with is figuring out the appropriate licensing structure for IDEA within Wipfli.
“It’s a tool we’d love everybody to use,” Storlie said, “and we’re trying to figure out whether it’s best to have a smaller set of dedicated licensed users, and others being on a concurrent license structure. We also have a lot of firms that merge into us, so keeping track of all our licenses is a task.”
“We’re trying to achieve our goal of exceeding our clients’ needs now and in the future,” Storlie said. “IDEA fits in well because it’s a tool that we can use now in this initiative of trying to have the firm use it more effectively than we are now. It’s an under-utilized tool in the firm, not because people aren’t interested, but because they will use the import functionality and then they’ll export the data to Excel to continue analyzing it there instead of in IDEA. It drives me a little crazy sometimes because there’s so much you can do in IDEA.”
For instance, Storlie built a methodology to use for journal entry testing using IDEA as the backbone. Historically, he explained, CPA firms will select a random sample of journal entries for testing, but he wanted to use IDEA to select a better sample for testing by identifying the riskiest journal entries, to see which entries failed the most (and riskiest) anti-fraud tests.
“When we bring that back to the client, they respond well to that,” he added. “They say these are good questions, and they’re glad we’re asking them. I’m big on data correlation — IDEA helps us connect the dots. IDEA allows me to more easily correlate all of the data, effectively and efficiently.”
Storlie said that he keeps in close touch with CaseWare — even while using different solutions at different firms throughout his career — attending and speaking at their user conferences, because, he says, “Although I like to say I’m tool-agnostic, IDEA has become my preferred analytic tool of choice.”
*Source: AccountingToday. The following is an excerpt from “Case studies: Audit tools in 2019” an article written by Ranica Arrowsmith for AccountingToday, published October 16, 2019. Read full article here.