By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Writer

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic pushed the public and private sector alike to shift physical processes to the virtual space as lockdown measures came into effect. While such transitions often take some time, the health crisis accelerated the shift to digitized processes in an effort to adjust to the new normal.

Having experienced the pandemic’s disruption, professional services firm Deloitte Philippines also had to adapt quickly.

Eric B. Landicho, managing partner and chief executive officer of Deloitte Philippines, recalled that in compliance with the quarantine measures that have been in place since last year, Deloitte transitioned employees to a purely remote work model and shifted its engagement with clients to the virtual space.

While the firm already allowed for remote work even before COVID-19 hit the country, he continued, this trend “was kicked into high gear” last year as the Philippines dealt with the first wave of the virus spread.

“We have experimented with different ways of optimizing remote work and collaboration depending on what is most effective for our people while being mindful of managing team performance and delivering quality service to clients,” Mr. Landicho said in an e-mail.

Undergoing these transitions, Mr. Landicho shared, was especially challenging during the first major lockdown that happened in March 2020, when the firm was in the tail end of its busiest season, leading up to the tax filing deadline.

Mr. Landicho recognized that carrying out audit procedures — which usually require personal observation and face-to-face interaction — would be significantly disrupted. The pandemic added a new, unfamiliar layer of challenges to what is normally an already tough period for auditing firms.

“External auditing has a series of processes and procedures that professionals must adhere to, along with various auditing standards,” Mr. Landicho explained. “To comply with these standards, audit engagement teams faced significant challenges — from obtaining information needed to perform procedures and reach conclusions, to delays in completing the audit as a result of the sudden need to work remotely.”

Recognizing these challenges, Deloitte Philippines formulated new audit strategies to ensure continued operations and uninterrupted service to clients. The firm established guidelines on how its professionals can continue to be deliberate and thorough in their required substantive testing using alternative virtual procedures.

The firm also developed new systems to support its operations, especially its engagement with clients across all its service lines. One of the systems it employed, Mr. Landicho shared, is Deloitte Connect. This online platform facilitates the coordination between the firm’s professionals and its clients when exchanging requests and deliverables while working remotely.

“Embracing new technologies and innovation, and being flexible in trying new ways of getting things done have made Deloitte Philippines a stronger organization during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr. Landicho said.

By providing its employees with the necessary support and tools, and modifying its strategies and plans based on the evolving realities on the ground, Deloitte Philippines has been able to respond to the pandemic in a way that now positions it to thrive in the new normal.