Yvonne Scott – Crowe Horwath LLP
Anyone who owns or runs a business understands how complicated the process of accounting can be. The bigger the company in question, the longer the ledger gets, the more complex that bookkeeping process becomes.
The same applies to other, equally intricate areas: taxes, risk management, auditing, even performance assessment.
Indeed, there’s a reason many multi-million or billion-dollar companies outsource these processes entirely.
Yet it’s no simple thing to specialize in areas others find too complicated to tackle alone, says Yvonne Scott, CIO for Crowe Horwath LLP, one of the largest public accounting, consulting and technology firms in the U.S.
With technology constantly changing, and accounting and similar processes remaining highly complex (cue a newly minted federal tax code), Scott says it’s a puzzle where all three of the department’s pillars—run, grow and transform—are brought to bear.
Only, it’s not just about the technology.
“We operate in a very people-oriented business,” Scott explains. “Through technology, we can create an environment where our clients can participate in the process of work. That’s beneficial to everyone.”
Covering all the bases
To better understand why Scott views collaboration in such transformative terms, it helps to know a bit more about her employer.
Crowe’s world-renowned services fall into five categories: tax, audit, advisory, risk and performance, with each requiring its own structure and systems. Depending on the client’s particular sector (Crowe provides services to organizations ranging from government agencies to multi-billion-dollar corporations), the company’s IT functions can vary significantly.
When a company tasks Crowe with conducting an audit, for example, all relevant data is fed through the company’s Information Request Tracker system and integrated into an audit-service delivery platform—tools Scott and her team have had a hand in shaping. Once that cross-organizational information exchange is complete, the two sides can proceed to an audit.
Sometimes, however, that collaborative involvement runs deeper. Because many Crowe clients work with multiple business units encompassing a whole taxonomy of services, it is important to drive role and process clarity to eliminate unwanted inefficiencies.
Working in tandem with leaders from these various business lines, Scott looks to streamline Crowe’s internal processes while also fostering better communication.
“Someone might come to us and say they’re looking for an easier way to exchange documents,” Scott illustrates. “Our goal is to try and achieve that in a way that simplifies the entire process.”
Crowe doesn’t always develop these tools unilaterally, however. In a recent example, Scott and her team—including members of both the IT and tax departments—began collaborating on a highly complex, custom software solution designed to provide recordkeeping and compliance testing services for the client’s employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).
Premier Logic, the Georgia-based digital solutions company that co-developed the software with Crowe, has long been a go-to in the financial industry, having worked with many of the nation’s top firms. With Crowe, Premier Logic saw a unique opportunity to bring its product development and industry expertise to an especially complex and strategic project.
“There was a unique alignment in terms of the transparency and trust that both sides brought to the partnership to ensure excellence in delivery and success for the business,” says Loren Eckart, chief revenue officer at Premier Logic. “It’s rare to forge new partnerships that combine the required experience and delivery capability, with the trust and cultural alignment needed to navigate a challenging project, but that’s exactly what we achieved with Yvonne and her team.”
But while Crowe’s services are meant to address myriad needs, Scott says there’s one area that’s emerged as one of the most in demand.
When Yvonne Scott landed her first post-college job, joining the Unocal Corporation as an internal auditor in 1980, IT was hardly a household acronym. It was a time when data was still being stored on magnetic tapes, one kilobyte being practically enough to send smoke billowing from your computer.
A lot has changed over the last 38 years, particularly in the realm of cybersecurity, a front Scott says has become the most pressing on her agenda—and one of the key services Crowe provides to its clients.
Part of that has to do with the makeup of the firm’s client base, replete as it is with healthcare and financial services companies, two areas hackers have taken to targeting.
Of course, these aren’t the only sectors seeking out Crowe’s expertise. Oftentimes, it’ll be a manufacturer looking to bolster its security credentials, typically in the form of hacker penetration testing.
The resulting process—issuing a comprehensive protocol, reviewing the resulting procedures and, eventually, issuing SOC 2 security certification—can take six months or longer to complete. At every step of the way stands Crowe’s IT stewards, including a dedicated information security director who answers directly to Scott.
Like the wider tech universe, Scott says the need for data diligence has grown exponentially.
“Ten years ago, security was one person’s job,” she explains. “Now we’re up to 15 people. It’s become its own delivery unit.”
But for as big a business boon as cybersecurity has become, it also presents its fair share of challenges. Companies in the health care and financial services fields, for example, are often governed by laws and regulations that restrict where their data is stored, making a migration to the cloud more complex.
Finding effective solutions that satisfy both client security requirements and allow Crowe to leverage operational advances, represents one of Scott’s foremost challenges.
Then again, that’s precisely why she decided to join Crowe in the first place: a chance to not only embrace the new technology paradigm, but traverse its trials as well.
“I realized right away the company was at an exciting tipping point,” Scott says. “From a strategy perspective, there was an enormous opportunity in this industry to be a trend-setter.”
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