Insights from Sarah Butler, Caseware APAC’s Head of Product Development

by: Caseware staff

In this engaging interview with Caseware’s Head of Product Development, Sarah Butler, we dive into the dynamic world of accounting software development. Discover how Caseware is navigating the complexities of the audit and accounting industry while staying at the forefront of innovation. Plus, get a sneak peek into the exciting projects and enhancements that Caseware has in store for the future. 

Can you tell us about yourself? 

I began my professional career back in 2002 through an audit traineeship at PwC in Melbourne. I worked there while completing my degree, and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of work, clients, industries and locations offered by a career in audit. So, a move to Caseware in 2009 was the perfect progression for me – it meant I could keep working with auditors but in a support capacity. I’ve utilised my experience to ensure enhancements made to our solutions are relevant and beneficial while still being innovative. Now, I thoroughly enjoy regularly getting out of the office to meet with Caseware firms and discuss all things audit and technology – it is very rewarding to be able to take an idea or enhancement recommended to me by an auditor to the development team and assist with its design, development and testing, then see it released in our solutions. 

In developing audit and accounting software, there’s a strong emphasis on compliance and accuracy. How does the product team ensure the software meets regulatory requirements and industry standards?”

Compliance is key – as the auditing standards in Australia have the force of law, we always prioritise compliance with each development project and solution update. We do this through working with Australian-based subject matter experts. These brilliant, experienced professionals work alongside our product team each year and help ensure all updates to standards and legislation related to our solutions are appropriately addressed. They also deliver webinars to our customers to help them understand requirements and standards application.

Innovation is vital to staying competitive. What’s the thought process your team follows when identifying new features or products to meet the needs of customers? 

Yes – innovation is vital, but so is listening. We spend a lot of time out and about talking to our customers, listening to them about what they do, how they work, where they spend the most time, and what their pain points are. This process helps ensure that we are always keeping up with industry needs and trends. For example, we knew the cloud would offer significant efficiencies and be the platform of choice, so we started delivering cloud-based audit solutions and integration in 2015. Since then, we have added loads of features, functionalities and solutions to the Caseware Cloud suite, making it a one-stop-shop for multidisciplinary firms. We now cater for audit, analytics and financial reporting. We will soon release a powerful addition for the business services teams – but I can’t say anything more than stay tuned! A more recent example of our innovation was the release of Sherlock – this powerful tool offers automated, centralised data warehousing for Caseware engagements and flexible practice-wide insights through advanced analytics and data visualisations.  

The audit and accounting industry is known for its complexity. How do you balance between adding new features to meet customer demands and ensuring the software remains user-friendly and intuitive? What strategies do you employ to make complex tasks simpler for your users?

When we build new features and functions, we always prototype them first. This allows us to mock up an idea, workshop it together to test its useability and relevance, and then run it past some customers. That way, we don’t waste time developing something that customers don’t want or need, and we can make sure it is easy for them to understand and implement into their existing workflow.

Cybersecurity and data privacy are increasingly important in software development. How does your team prioritise and address these concerns in your products, and what steps are taken to ensure the customers’ security and confidentiality of sensitive financial data?

Security of client data should be front of mind for all auditors in this day and age. All too often, we now hear about hacking and accidental data loss, so we at Caseware are mindful of this, too. For this reason, we have ensured that our Cloud platform has all of the relevant international-grade security certifications (more information on our security certifications can be found here) required of a premium solution provider. Plus, firms can enable their own two-factor authentication for an added layer of security – this is something we recommend all Caseware firms consider implementing, so I suggest calling the Customer Service team to find out more about this.

So, what’s next on your to-do list?

It is a very exciting time in the audit industry, although when is it not?!  

We are currently swamped on a number of projects, and I’m lucky to be involved in many of them. We are deep in the design and development of new enhancements to assist with applying the revised ASA 600 standard, which will be applicable in audits from next year on. Plus, we are also collaborating globally on several powerful platform enhancements – these projects are inspiring to be part of, as I get to utilise my audit experience and work with a global product leadership team. Caseware partners will start to hear and see some very excellent additions to our solutions in the near future. How’s that for a teaser?!

I’m also looking forward to hosting our upcoming CwX APAC conference with our product specialist, Ken Chan – this is always a brilliant event, but this promises to be the best yet, with the addition of our Asia-Pacific colleagues and customers and two face-to-face events. So I’m looking forward to 28 Nov – 1 Dec (register for CwX APAC 2023 here).