Stamford, Conn. (Dec. 12, 2003) -- Forty-nine percent of firms believe Sarbanes-Oxley is a necessary cost of doing business, and 39 percent say SOX will eventually make them more competitive, according to a poll by information technology research and consulting firm Meta Group Inc.

In addition, 71 percent of companies believe they will meet SOX’s conditions by their required deadlines, according to Meta, which predicted that many companies will go beyond mere compliance and will use SOX as a way of improving business efficiency.

Meta Group predicted that spending for business applications will ramp up in the third quarter of 2004 as firms complete their Section 404 projects and address weaknesses. In addition to driving increased business for audit/risk service firms, Meta said SOX compliance efforts will prove a boon to IT product and service vendors.

Meta identified six phases of SOX projects. It estimates that 10 percent of SOX-affected firms are at the "exploration" (Level 0) stage; 25 percent are at "building awareness" (Level 1), where the enterprise projects are being defined and resources are being identified to manage the Section 404 process. The majority (40 percent) are at "project initiation" (Level 2), where formal enterprise SOX projects begin. Twenty percent of firms are at "project execution" (Level 3) and are actively involved in executing internal control projects. Only 5 percent of firms are at "perform assessment/review results" (Level 4), working on identifying business processes. According to Meta, few firms are at "optimization" (Level 5) -- for most, this will begin after the initial Section 404 compliance date (June 2004 and ongoing).

-- WebCPA staff

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