PricewaterhouseCoopers provides industry-focused Assurance, Tax and Advisory services to build trust and enhance value for its clients and their stakeholders. More than 161,788 people in 154 countries across the international network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice. “PricewaterhouseCoopers” refers to the network of member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each of which is a separate and independent legal entity.
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The people of PwC around the world are united by a commitment to quality and excellence. PwC developed common methodologies, processes, knowledge bases, and technologies, and we continue to rework and refine them. PwC firms comprise a worldwide network with a multidisciplinary skill base and deep expertise in financial and business affairs as well as a shared dedication to common values and ethics with the view of delivering consistent quality.
The global dispersion of PwC firms is shown below:
Figure 1: Global dispersion of PwC firms
PricewaterhouseCoopers In Sri Lanka
The PricewaterhouseCoopers Sri Lanka is a full member of PwC global network where PwCSL is authorised to practice under the name of PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwCSL is a registered partnership and registered with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) as a practicing firm. PwCSL is presently managed by a Leadership Team (LT). They are responsible to the PwC global office and the partnership for the management. PwCSL currently has 12 resident partners and directors. PwCSL provide assurance, tax, and advisory services, which include statutory audits, other assurance services, accounting support, tax, performance improvement, transaction services and valuations. At present, PwCSL has approximately 325 personnel including 60 professionally qualified accountants with wide experience.
PwCSL meets client needs by combining its international capabilities and local market knowledge with its extensive range of skills and industry expertise. PwCSL has the people, knowledge, methodologies and experience in performing audits to ensure success in all services engagements.
Structure of the IT division and present level of IT use at PwC
2.1 Structure of the IT division
PwC’s IT division is called Global Technology Solutions (GTS). It carries out all the functions related to the IT and IS in the firm and also responsible for the smooth functioning and security of both IT and IS infrastructure. The structure of the GTS can be demonstrated as follows.
With an organization profile such as above PwC is bound to have a good IS structure. So before we discuss how that IS enables PwC to gain and sustain competitive advantage we will have a look at the IT elements at PwC.
2.2 Level IT in use at PwC
PwC’s IT infrastructure is designed to support the ISs that are existent within the organization. We identified the following key elements as explained in the next page.
Hardware – Laptops & desktops
All laptops and desktops are equipped with either Intel Pentium 4 or Intel Core 2 Duo processors with at least 2 gigabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM)
Software – MS office and IBM Lotus Notes
Lotus Notes is the client side of a client server, collaborative application developed and sold by IBM Software Group. It is an “integrated desktop client option for accessing business e-mail, calendars and applications on an IBM Lotus Domino server. This is the base program which runs all the features of My Client and other web based PwC IS tools. Microsoft Office 2003 is the main utility software used and the package includes Ms Word, Ms Excel, Ms Project, Ms PowerPoint, Ms Publisher, Ms Visio and Ms Access.
Databases – SQL and Oracle
The databases run on the following hardware base
DL 380 G6
2.3 Ghz dual processer
146*3 HDDconfigured with RAID 5
146*2 HDD configured with RAID 0
Dual network card redundant power supply
And runs on Microsoft Windows XP 2003 service pack 2.
Networks – Cisco
The databases run on the following hardware base
Cisco 3750 24 port core switch
Cisco 2050 48 port access switch * 3
Information Systems (IS) available at PwC
Following could be highlighted as the main IS systems in PwC which could be considered to have a major impact on operations.
HC Gateway ISMS 270002:2005
Let us now look at what these ISs are and the purposes for which these have been implemented. After that we will analyse the ISMS 270001″2005 certification guideline which the PwC follows and also which is the governance structure for the total IT structure at PwC.
MyClient is the comprehensive tool which is used to document audit work and findings. It is a system that combines a variety of audit tools (referred to as MyClient modules) into a single location, thereby creating one workspace for client work. This allows uses to focus on clients, information and processes rather than the IT systems in order to accomplish the tasks on an assignment.
MyClient is the global audit technology support platform. The MyClient navigator provides access to various audit tools in a user-friendly web-like environment.
The Client File is the official record of the work performed. For an audit engagement, the Client File should contain all the audit evidence that supports the audit opinion. This (in conjunction with the paper file) should be the only place where this evidence is recorded once the engagement is complete.
File Management and Deployment (referred to as TeamFind)
The File Management and Deployment module of MyClient maintains a territory wide listing of all deployed files (as well as providing general information, aggregate analysis and exception reporting for deployed files across the territory for the use by internal quality control and risk management purposes.)
“Deploying” – is the process of putting a MyClient file onto the server so that all team members are able to access the MyClient file. It is important to note that users cannot just access any audit file. TeamFind is set up such that only the engagement members listed can access the file.
Users will use file management and deployment module to obtain local copies/replicas of the client files that user will be working on and also to request access to client files for which user has not been granted access.
Documentation and Archiving Navigator (DAN)
Global MyClient Documentation and Archiving Navigator (“DAN”) is a tool designed to facilitate monitoring of engagement leader and team manager client portfolios. It provides an overview of key engagement dates, planning and completion sign-offs, and the status of significant matters and steps.
Client Acceptance and Continuance
The Client Acceptance and Continuance module assists the user (i.e. the Team Manager and Engagement Leader) in evaluating the professional risks associated with accepting a new client or in providing continuing services to an existing client. It provides the user with a consistent method of assessing the risks associated with an entity and/or engagement, together with a means of managing the approval process and portfolio risk.
The Template Manager module is a library of audit templates that can be used by engagement teams (for example audit report templates, bank letters, management representation letters, etc.). The main feature of this is with the latest updates in the global standards and regulatory requirements these templates are tailored after incorporating latest changes.
This is a user guide/ help function for MyClient, and will be the source to answer MyClient questions while you are in the field. MyPAL has been designed as a self-training “just in time” reference tool for researching information about the MyClient system. It is a help system that provides quick access to reference systems, including comprehensive help on the technology and the related methodology and working practices impacting the MyClient systems. MyPAL is the primary source of information related to MyClient and will be used extensively by all engagement team members. MyPAL has been designed to be easy to use and navigate through which will save you valuable time in searching for guidance and answers regarding the MyClient system.
PwC Audit Guide
The PwC Audit Guide is your complete reference tool for all aspects of our audit approach and its supporting working practices. Any question that a user can have about our audit approach should be answered by referring to this guide.
Master Data is a library of audit procedures to be used to set up a work plan. Master Data is directly based upon International Standards of Auditing (ISA), and the step document will often include hyperlinks to the relevant ISA and so helps us to comply with ISAs. It is therefore ensures that PwC is using the correct, most recent version of Master Data in our Client Files. There is various Master Data available on the server – the set of Master Data differs by Generally Accepted Accounting Standards (GAAS), type of work and industry.
The Communications File can be used by an engagement team to share client information, industry knowledge and contact information.
3.2 HC Gateway
HC Gateway is a comprehensive human capital management system which assists the management of the firm to effectively manage its vital human capital which is the core asset of a professional service organization such as PwC. HC Gateway has the following features and facilities.
My Workspace is the entry point to the HC gateway that can be customized according to the personal requirements of a user and used as a dashboard by each staff.
Employee Profile Management and Life Cycle
This is the core module of the system and holds all key information related to each employee (including personal, employment, qualification, work experience and historical data). This module will also enable the HR team to seek electronic approval for all regular HR administration processes (e.g. increments, promotions, transfers etc), produce pre-merged letters (individually or in bulk) and run a series of reports.
This module enables employees to submit electronic applications for leave and seek approval from their divisional heads. Each divisional head and nominated HR team members can also be granted access to all leave activity and leave history of their subordinates.
Training and Development
The coordination of the training needs of your organization are managed through the Training and Development module. This module will allow the organisation to create a database of training programs and resources, define specific training for each designations or grade, and enable the training coordinator to invite participants / internal trainers for courses, manage the annual training calendar, monitor attendance and make logistical arrangements. This module also includes options to monitor training budgets and spend for individuals, departments and business units. An employee through the self service module could view all planned training for him/herself, requisition training, accept or re-assign training courses or dates nominated by HR.
Through this module PwC is able to manage the recruitment process from the recruitment requisition stage to the employee hire stage. Obtaining online job applications, managing and short listing CVs, interview scheduling, conducting online tests are also included in this module. It also includes the facility to rank and park CVs for future reference.
Performance Coaching and Development
This module allows us to stream line the performance evaluation process of the staff in the organization. Generating development plans, approvals, annual/quarterly performance evaluations, feedback and tracking the Key Performance Indicators are the main facilities provided under Performance Management.
This module allows PwC to generate monthly payroll of the organization through the same system. Employee information included in the profile module will be used to manage the payroll and can maintain the benefits/deductions, calculate the payroll and print the necessary slips and reports.
We can keep track of the alumni of our organisation and manage communications with them with this process. The staff can be automatically registered with the Alumni with their consent at the time of resignation or the member registration can be managed separately. This module also allows you to manage the alumni events, communicate such to the members and generate news letters etc through the system.
Information Management: Reports & Dashboards – for each of the above modules
The reporting function is spread across all the modules in the HC Gateway and it supports a set of pre-defined reports as well as the facility of generating customized reports to suit reporting requirements. Additional columns can be added to the existing reports by a drag and drop facility and the reports can also be generated through a query builder. The reports can be drilled down to the lowest level of detail. The reports could be designed in the form of charts, graphs or in tabular format.
KnowledgeCurve/Global PwC Portal
Knowledgecurve can be considered as a comprehensive access gate way PwC’s many tools and data bases. It is web based and very easy to use. It also provides the latest updates on accounting and financial reporting.
Factiva, a Dow Jones & Reuters Company, provides essential business news and information together with the content delivery tools and services that enable professionals to make better decisions faster. Factiva’s unrivalled collection of more than 10,000 authoritative sources includes the exclusive combination of The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Timesâ„¢, Dow Jones and Reuters newswires and the Associated Press, as well as Reuters Fundamentals, and D&B company profiles. Basically users can find any piece of news information you are looking for! It can be accessed via the Knowledge Tools page in the MyClient Navigator or via KnowledgeCurve/Global PwC Portal.
Factiva – Search page
Comperio is a global tool designed to contain technical and regulatory material. For example, accounting standards are included in a wide variety from International Accounting Standards to the local ones. For example if the client is a pharmaceutical company and has a lot of research and development and uses IFRS, users could look in Comperio to find out everything you need to know about accounting for research and development under IFRS. In addition Comperio also contains general business legislation available for each territory.
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3.6 Global PwC Portal (Gateway)
Gateway is a simple and powerful tool that can save time and add value to users’ research as it provides a wide range of industry specific information, including deeper knowledge on industry dynamics. It can be accessed via the Knowledge Tools page in the MyClient Navigator or via KnowledgeCurve/Global PwC Portal or via the PwC Knowledge Page on the Global Portal.
3.7 Assurance NoE
NoE stands for Networks of Excellence. The Networks of Excellence (“NoE”) are knowledge management databases designed to facilitate knowledge sharing. It can be accessed via the Knowledge Tools page in the MyClient Navigator. Assurance NoE. In this database users can find the industry best practices in order to facilitate meaningful dialogue with client management on important business issues. The NoEs facilitate the Firm’s strategy of adding value in client service, and thereby improves profitability and generates demand for additional services. Users can sort content by audit process, geography, or industry and when users find something they like and want to finish reading later – they can drag and drop it into their Favourites folder – where it will be stored and updated.
3.8 PwC Portal
This is launch pad for the local intranet which gives the users direct access to the Management Information System (MIS) and Performance Coaching and Development (PC&D) Application, The notice board, GTS help desk and Incident management.
3.9 Management Information System (MIS)
The MIS can give the users information ranging from timesheet information, productivity reports, debtors aging to recovery reports. Its features of easy access and to the information and very simple user interface makes it very user friendly. It has been specifically designed to suit professional service organizations such as PwC.
This site has been designed to allow easy access to a range of e-Learning courses and assessments available within PwC. These learning courses are developed by various territories to suite there requirements and any user at any PwC office around the world by using their GUID can access the site and download of run e-learner courses and update or improve their knowledge.
3.11 ISMS 27002:2005
The ISO/ IEC 27002:2005 Standard is all-encompassing. It takes a very broad approach to information security. In the context of this standard, the term information includes all forms of data, documents, communications, conversations, messages, recordings, and photographs. It includes everything from digital data and email to faxes and telephone conversations. It includes all forms of information.
PwC has established and adhere to controls setup under 11 headings as listed below.
Information relating to the business of each member firm is a highly valuable asset, which requires protection from unauthorised use, disclosure, potential theft, alteration or destruction. Effective information security management enables information to be shared while minimising each member firm’s exposure to risk.
Threats to information include, but are not limited to:
This ISP has been developed to ensure the confidentially, integrity and availability of the information and technology assets (e.g., IT applications, systems and facilities) used by the firm and is aligned to ISO/IEC 27002:2005 ” Information technology- Security techniques code of practice for Information security management” industry standard.
By implementing this policy, the local firm will be contributing to the ongoing protection of the PricewaterhouseCoopers brand, and the reputation and future profitability of all member firms within the PwC network.
The areas outlined below correlate to the objectives and controls outlined in the ISO/IEC 27002:2005 industry standard, with adjustments trailed to PwC’s business and security environment.
Security Policy – describes the need to protect the firm’s information and technology assets, to ensure compliance with regulatory and contractual obligations and any additional PwC policies, standards and local security policies.
Organisation of Information security – The management of security within PwC, encompassing the PwC network-wide security model framework, third party access to firm’s resources and security requirements for outsourced service providers.
Asset Management – classification and security of firm’s information assets and systems, including data classification.
Human Resources security – areas affecting personnel security within the firm such as employee vetting, terms and conditions of employment, confidentiality agreements, and user awareness training.
Physical and Environmental security – building access control, clear desk policy, laptop security-with the overall aim of ensuring adequate protection of firm’s business premises and the information and technology assets that reside within them.
Communication and operations management – Secure operations and management of information processing centres. For example, clear separations of test and production environments, separation of operational duties based upon roles, strong change management controls and secure management connections.
Access Control – to ensure that correct and appropriate access if assigned to the firm’s information and technology assets, based upon a data classification scheme and assigned roles and responsibilities.
Information systems acquisition, development and maintenance – development and ongoing maintenance of information systems to ensure adequate security controls are included during the conceptual design phase.
Information security incident management – controls that the firm must implement to ensure minimum impact to the firm, or any other of the member firms, in the event of a security breach.
Business continuity management – business continuity and disaster recovery planning based upon service level agreements and recovery time objectives with the overall aim of ensuring minimal impact to the firm’s business in the event of a disaster.
Compliance – outlines controls that measure and monitor compliance of the firm’s enterprise and systems to ensure that firm is in compliance with this policy and other relevant security controls as agreed via the policies and standard process. Includes additional controls required to determine compliance with applicable regulations and legislations such as data protection.
Since we have now understood the IS and IT tools that the PwC has in its arsenal, we are in solid position to judge how those IS and IT tool enables the PwC to gain competitive advantage.
How PwC generate competitive advantage
Since now we have an idea on what kind of tools that PwC uses lets move in to the analysis part where we will discuss how those tools generate competitive advantage.
4.1 My Client
Since the major business of PwC is providing audit and assurance related services, the impact of My Client has had over the years on improving the service delivery time and quality has been unparallel. Each feature of the system in its own unique way facilitates the improvement of the quality of the assurance work PwC does. Specially, the Client Acceptance and Continuance module enables PwC to ascertain the pertaining risk of any assurance engagement before it even starts. It gives the red light if the risk of the engagement is beyond the PwC’s risk management criteria and proactively prompts the management not to accept the engagement. This is a very vital function because PwC is in a business were reputation counts for a lot, and losing it is simply not acceptable since that will bring the business down with it. Therefore having a automated tool to assist in the decision to either accept or reject clients is no doubt is a competitive advantage.
Master data and the client file are also very vital quality assurance tools. Since the master data is prepared based on the latest International Standards in Auditing (ISA) it naturally keeps the audit team in adherence to the minimum work required by the ISAs. The Master data imported to the respective client files and the work plan for a particular client can be custom built to suit the clients risk and industry. These ensure that PwC always have followed the requirements of ISAs and their radiuses their risk to an acceptably low level. By providing the client staff with pre-prepared worksheets called “Templates” My Client helps staff to document there work done adhering to the ISA requirements as well as PwC global quality standards. This ensures that PwC is inline with all the standards without putting much thought to that. Having done that the PwC management can be comfortable about their future sustainability. Also the PwC Audit Guide is always with the client staff to refer if any doubts regarding the PwC audit methodology arises. Further , the maintenance of system files enables to roll forward the previous year audit files in the current year and the standard working can be used with few modifications. However, most of the ither audit firms documents audits manually and hence had to redo the workings from one year to another. This feature has enabled PwC to be cost effective and pass the benefit to clients in terms of lower or reduced fees which in turn ensures the retention of existing clients and attracting of new clients.
Also this provide PwC to attract audit trainees as trainees have the opportunity to get familier with the global audit methodologies and tools while obtaining necessary audit knowledge. As a result in the recent past the number of job applications received has increased significantly and helped PwC to recruit mix of highly potential students with various education backgrounds such University, Chartered, CIMA, ACCA and etc.
All these features facilitate PwC to perform there jobs to the utmost quality and quickly. This enables PwC to gain competitive advantage over its competitors since none of them has such a comprehensive tool assist them. Hence this creates significant competitive advantage to PwC over its competitors.
4.2 HC Gateway
This brings PwC competitive advantage through automated work practice and effective and efficient use of staff time in performing different tasks which are related to HR. As an organization there is a big advantage having IT enabled systems such as Personalised Workspace, Employee Profile Management and Life Cycle, Leave Management system, Training and Development, Recruitment, Performance Coaching and Development, Alumni, Information Management, Reports & Dashboards.
These systems ensure the accuracy of employee HR related data and activities. Sound set of controls are in place so that employees can get the advantage of accurate and integrated data and to increase the efficiency of administrative work as an organization. Having such a perfect system for HR related activities, PwC has a competitive edge towards its main competitors (KPMG, E&Y) over administration work when we compare with other audit firms. To capture the time worked for clients still these competitor firms use manual sheets which may lead to commit manipulation or errors by trainees specially since these firms mostly sending trainees for various client places there is no proper control over charging time to clients. Also, through this automation PwC can monitor productivity of employees, divisions and effectiveness and efficiency of employees or current/past jobs ongoing basis. These special features of PwC HC gateway make sure the competitive position of PwC among other competitive firms.
Further, the locally developed HC Gateway has opened up another business avenue for PwC and it is now in the process of selling this software to other organizations and has already implemented in one place. This enables PwC to earn upfront sales proceeds and earn recurring revenue on maintenance services provided to the respective client. None of the other audit firms in Sri Lanka has this advantage.
Following screen print shows how PwC measures productivity of line of services and each employee of different groups for a given month.
4.3 KnowledgeCurve/Global PwC Portal
KnowledgeCurve/Global PwC Portal assist PwC to gain competitive edge in the following manner.
– The “virtual office” aspect, which “supports to employees being out of the office”.
– The “communications piece”, which provides daily news that, can be updated instantly.
– The educational arm, called Learning Curve, which provides such services as
continuing education tracking and just-in-time training.
-“Trustworthy” linkage to the internet, because of the internal process that ensures all
links on KnowledgeCurve are verifiable and accurate sources.
Compared to other firms in Sri Lanka it is obvious that PwC is the leading firm with a profound knowledge base. It helps to turn paper-based business processes into more user-friendly online experiences. The knowledgecurve is the most valuable asset in the PwC which makes higher level competitive edge towards the globally web enabled technical repository facility and helps to unify its knowledgebase and its people through retrieval of most updated data and sharing knowledge.
4.4 Factiva and Comperio
These two Web based searching tools bring PwC towards the competitive advantage by allowing users to have quick access to data which are upto date. Having upto date and accurate information helps PwC to improve the quality
In the line of service PwC is engaged in, it is very important that PwC has prompt access to information do various analysis and research. Having information is not enough. They should be from valid sources. The client expects accurate information from the PwC to derive solid decisions. Having this tool enables PwC to just that. Thereby it creates trust between the client and PwC which in turns create brand loyalty. This enables PwC to develop and sustain its competitive edge over its competitors.
4.6 Assurance NoE
This knowledge pool also assist PwC in gaining competitive advantage by means of providing access to information that enables PwC client service staff to come up with better solutions for problems. Having a database of problems and potential solutions helps to speed up client services and earn the respect of the client. Although PwCs competitors have such databases, those are not comprehensive and orderly constructed as this and not accessible to every global office.
4.7 PwC Portal
PwC portal directly contributes to internal cost saving and time saving by providing comprehensive access to all PwC internal management software’s and tools. It enables PwC to be cost effective and efficient and the same time. It adds to the overall competitive advantage of the firm.
4.8 Management Information System (MIS)
The MIS enables the client service employees of PwC to charge their time spent on client work to those specific clients. Then the management is in a position to extract various details of productivity and client recovery on yearly and each project basis. This assists the management in determining the most profitable clients and improving or discontinuing their services who are not so profitable and thereby improve overall performance of the firm. Also, the system enables the management to obtain information like debtors aging and recoveries so the management at each audit Group levels can improve its collection process and ensure sound working capital management. Further, other various information processed by the system enables the management to make sound decision on managing the business. When compared with its competitors, PwC is the only known firm to have a system like this inst
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