A Conversation with… Lisa Leighton, Head of Audit at BHP
Recently, our CEO Mark Edmondson had the chance to sit down with Lisa Leighton, BHP’s Head of Audit.
BHP was an early adopter of our next-generation data analytics software, and in this conversation Lisa shares the unique insights she’s gleaned from implementing Inflo within her firm alongside how it’s helped the firm win more client work.
You can watch the full interview above, and here’s a quick look at the highlights for a taste of what to expect:
How to successfully integrate data analytics software into your firm
Lisa shares one clear takeaway for firms planning on adopting data analytics software: pick a single location and start by establishing a small team of forward-thinking champions there. The results will start speaking for themselves, and other teams will soon be asking to be part of this new initiative, leading to a smooth implementation across your firm in a short time.
Lisa explains that BHP went through some trial and error before using this approach to establish Inflo across the entire firm. “We started off with every single audit partner picking a job and giving the software a go, and it was a big mistake”, she said. “And it wasn’t because the partners were resistant to it – [it was because] we spread the work out to too many managers. So effectively our auditors had some training, and then they might not implement that knowledge until three or four months down the line, by which time they’d forgotten what to do.”
This meant there was “no traction behind” this new way of working within the firm. “So we changed our tack and we got a small group of managers in one location to use Inflo on all of their clients”, Lisa explains. “And to keep the momentum going, we also had monthly meetings that involved someone from Inflo. In these meetings we’d discuss what had gone well, what hadn’t gone well, what are we doing next month, and how we were going to get some more momentum behind the process.”
Unlike the previous approach of asking every manager to adopt Inflo at once, this created a buzz around what the team were doing. “We actually had members of different offices feeling disappointed that they weren’t involved, so we started to bring further champions in”, says Lisa.
After this, interest quickly snowballed, and she said “we made the decision half-way through last year that for all December 2018 year-ends, we would use data analytics on every single job”.
How to sell data analytics to existing and future clients
Lisa told Mark that she’s seen a huge shift in clients’ attitude towards data analytics software over the past few years. “If I approached a client two years ago and said ‘I want to use data analytics on your audit’, the first question they’d have asked me would be ‘how much does that mean my audit will go up by?’”, she said.
She also notes that clients used to be “very nervous, particularly about security”, and that GDPR didn’t help with that during 2018.
However, she says that “more and more clients are just saying yes now – they’re seeing it as a natural piece of an audit”.
There’s therefore less of a need to sell existing and future clients on the benefits data analytics software brings to their audit.
In fact, Lisa says that she “can categorically say that we have won several clients over the past two years because we are able to say in our pitch that we can use data analytics in our process”.
Where there is pushback on data analytics, Lisa says a focus on how it increases the quality of an audit – “you’re not having a trainee sat there trying to find a needle in a haystack, because you’ve mined 100% of the data at the outset” – helps the client see how it will benefit them.
Does adopting data analytics software lead to a reduction in fees?
With more and more clients buying into the benefits of data analytics by the day, the last big hurdle comes in the form of a discussion over reduced fees.
If software like Inflo is enabling your firm to spend less time delivering the same output, you might be concerned that your clients argue they shouldn’t pay as much for your services.
However, Lisa says that BHP haven’t had a single client ask for a fee reduction during the two years it’s been using Inflo. “They’re not seeing it as a chance to get a fee reduction – they’re seeing it more as ‘if this makes my life easier, why wouldn’t I embrace it?’”, she says.
By adopting data analytics software, firms are making their clients’ lives easier, they aren’t in their hair as much because they can work more flexibly, and at the end of the process they bring more value to them through the outputs.
It’s been Lisa’s experience that clients grasp this completely, and adopting Inflo has only made BHP more competitive.
Watch the video above to take a deep dive into the conversation and learn from the experience of one of the most forward-thinking audit leaders in the UK.