Microsoft, Industry Partners Deliver Tools to Help Simplify Corporate Financial Compliance Starting today, companies seeking to comply with new federal financial reporting regulations have a powerful new tool at their disposal: software and technology-architecture guidance from Microsoft Corp. that will help partners readily build custom solutions to compliance challenges.Microsoft announced the general availability of the new Microsoft(R) Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley, which is designed to help partners build solutions based on the Microsoft Office System. Companies using an Office-based solution can document and review their internal financial controls and use the Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley to help meet other compliance requirements mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Available to Microsoft Office System customers at no charge, the new tool is third in a series of accelerators aimed at helping companies handle key business issues in a cost-effective way using software they already license. This accelerator helps address the ongoing need of publicly traded companies to meet stringent new requirements for reporting, auditing and quality control under sections 302 and 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. "The Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley sped up our compliance process by providing an easy-to-use tool for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our section 404 controls documentation," said Stacy Lax, director of internal audit for RemedyTemp Inc., a national provider of clerical, light industrial, information technology and financial temporary staffing services. "Using the accelerator, multiple individuals or teams in multiple locations can now collaborate on intelligent task management and reporting. The methodology of the accelerator can also be used for other projects, such as internal audit management." The Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley extends the value of existing software investments by building on the Microsoft Office System products that many companies already use or are likely to soon deploy. Compliance solutions based on the accelerator are easy to use and administer and are fully compatible with other Microsoft products. Partners Help Customers Meet Sarbanes-Oxley Challenges Publicly traded companies face significant challenges and resource investments when it comes to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Companies affected by the act are held to a new level of accountability, and executives must demonstrate financial transparency and good corporate governance to investors. Microsoft technology partners -- including more than 30 independent software vendors, systems integrators and accounting firms -- are rallying to offer support for companies' Sarbanes-Oxley compliance needs. Using the accelerator, Microsoft partners can customize solutions to make it easier for individuals, divisions or entire corporations to access and manage needed compliance information. "At Microsoft, we are committed to helping to address our customers' compliance needs through working with our industry partners," said Peter Rinearson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker New Markets division. "The Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley is a great way for our industry partners to quickly build customized solutions that help companies comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act." Microsoft's broad network of partners can be of great help to companies that need to meet Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. For example, accounting firms offer key subject-matter expertise, including information-rich content libraries for documenting and improving internal controls. Systems integrators provide technical support to implement solutions that help meet customers' growing compliance needs. Independent software vendors (ISVs) provide solutions built on top of the accelerator that address additional areas, such as business intelligence and records management. Together, Microsoft's partners help customers quickly set up a compliance infrastructure that can support a variety of control libraries and methodologies. Protiviti Inc., an independent risk consulting and internal auditing firm, is currently piloting the accelerator with its clients. "As indicated by several of our clients, the market has been eagerly anticipating a Sarbanes-Oxley solution from Microsoft, particularly one that can be configured and customized to meet a company's unique requirements," said Scott Gracyalny, managing director of the Risk Technology Solutions practice at Protiviti. "The Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley could prove to be a sound strategic platform for companies to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley as well as a broader range of issues relating to corporate governance and risk management. We look forward to working with Microsoft to enhance this solution to fit the emerging needs of public companies worldwide." Broad Application Although Sarbanes-Oxley is U.S. legislation, regulatory compliance is a global issue. Companies worldwide that do business in the United States are required to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and U.S.-style auditing rules were recently announced in the European Union. The accelerator is optimized to work with the most common control methodologies and is flexible and extensible so companies can adapt it to their unique needs. The accelerator not only helps companies standardize financial processes, but also provides a solid foundation for their ongoing, changing compliance needs. "Current Sarbanes-Oxley regulations mandate that many publicly traded companies file certain reports and statements before the end of this year," said Zohair Mirza, a managing director with BearingPoint Inc., one of the world's largest business consulting and systems integration firms. "In meeting initial 404 compliance, tools such as the Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley can be integrated in a company's financial systems architecture and can provide a foundation for other upcoming requirements of enhanced transparency and monitoring." Built on Windows(R) SharePoint(TM) Services and Microsoft Office InfoPath(TM) 2003, the Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley is one of the first deliverables under a larger compliance initiative from Microsoft. Other current and future offerings will provide customers with cost-effective solutions useful in other compliance initiatives, such as document and e-mail retention. For example, Microsoft is working closely with leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and ISVs to offer a range of storage solutions built on Windows Storage Server 2003. And Microsoft Business Solutions offers a wide range of integrated, end-to-end business applications and services designed to help small and midsize businesses and corporate divisions achieve business success and financial visibility. About Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators Designed for and built on the Microsoft Office System, Office Solution Accelerators constitute an integrated set of software components, templates and best-practices guidance designed to solve specific problems common to organizations. Each accelerator is designed to help develop a solution to a problem, enabling individuals and teams to accomplish a specific task, such as streamlining recruiting functions, consolidating administrative tasks, creating customized reports or writing proposals. About Microsoft Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. Source: PR News Wire