SOX 404 toolkitGet used to it, people: Sarbanes-Oxley is not going away. We will not wake up and discover that it was all one big national nightmare. All the more reason, then, to pick up SOX expert Michael Ramos' The Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 Implementation Toolkit, a font of detailed implementation practice aids for companies looking to meet the act's internal control reporting requirements.
The book has clear guidance, as well as plenty of forms and checklists, for establishing a repeatable, easily taught SOX methodology and for making internal control assessment less of a drain going forward; it also comes with a handy CD-ROM with all the tools from the book on it.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act may not be going away, but there are ways to make it more bearable.
John Wiley & Sons
'By the Numbers'
We suspect this is a chicken-and-egg kind of thing: The better an organization as a whole performs, the lower the percentage of revenues that its finance function represents. In other words, better companies have better accounting departments, at least according to By the Numbers: Accounting, a recent benchmarking study. The study found a wide gap between top and bottom performers, and describes the practices, both good and bad, that lead to the gap. Focusing on four key areas (accounts payable and receivable, general ledger management, and payroll), it offers insight into ways to improve performance, and how to drive your organization, or your client's, into the top tier.
Price: Members - $99; non-members - $299.
When we say construction guides, we don't mean blueprints - we mean guides for accountants who serve construction contractors as customers. PPC has three great resources for those who provide services to contractors: the mammoth three-volume Guide to Construction Contractors, which has guidance and practice aids for audit, compilation and review engagements, and has been updated to reflect SSARS 10 and 11; the in-depth Guide to Construction Contractor Taxation, which explains the appropriate tax laws in practical language, with over 150 real-life examples; and the Guide to Risk-Based Audits of Construction Contractors, which helps you perform more efficient audits. All are available in print, on CD and online.
Price: Construction Contractors - $244; Construction Contractor Taxation - $192; Risk-Based Audits of Construction Contractors - $325.
Experts are always going on about how important it is to invest in your people, but they rarely get into how much is too much. We here at New Products, for instance, find our productivity enhanced just by a little less whipping and only a few more crusts of moldy bread. Dr. Jack Phillips recognizes that this kind of investment is not one-size-fits-all, as shown by the subtitle of his Investing in Your Company's Human Capital: Strategies to Avoid Spending Too Little - or Too Much. The book fully acknowledges the need for developing your human resources, but the five strategies it outlines are designed to get the most out of your people - without spending the most.
Since our performance appraisals amount to little more than a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from the Emperor's box, we were fascinated to learn that some organizations actually use words to describe how employees are doing. Given the enormous variety of reasons that people fail at their jobs, we can imagine that from time to time it must be difficult to come up with the mot juste to explain exactly why they failed. Enter 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews, an enormously useful thesaurus of specific, concrete verbiage that will take you far, far beyond "Meets/exceeds expectations."
Price: $10.95 (paper).
Give me a lever ...
Organization design isn't something most people want to spend a lot of time on: Take some executives, add staff, throw in a few support people, decide everyone's responsibilities, and you're done, right?
Not so fast, says Harvard Business School's Robert Simmons. His Levers of Organization Design: How Managers Use Accountability Systems for Greater Performance and Commitment argues that design - the definition of roles, rights and responsibilities in a firm - is far more important than most would imagine. He designates four "levers" to assure success (unit structure, diagnostic control systems, interactive networks and shared responsibilities), and uses detailed case studies to illustrate how his model works to make companies better.
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