Microsoft Corp. announced the forthcoming Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley, the product of ongoing work, including input from experts from Big Four accounting firms, to help companies meet growing compliance requirements in a cost-effective way with software they already license. The accelerator, one of a series of accelerators aimed at helping companies handle key business issues, is designed to make it easier for publicly traded companies to more easily manage their internal financial controls.

Specifically, the accelerator helps address the recurring needs surrounding internal control documentation, monitoring and testing, as required by sections 404 and 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Although the Sarbanes- Oxley Act is U.S. legislation, regulatory compliance is an issue for companies around the world. The accelerator will support Japanese and other double-byte characters, making it ideal for global companies.

Microsoft will use the accelerator to help meet its own compliance needs. "Our pain points are similar to those of other companies, and this tool will go a long way toward reducing them," said Scott Di Valerio, corporate vice president and corporate controller at Microsoft. "We're working closely with the Microsoft product group, which is developing the accelerator to meet the world's needs – but also our own."

Built on Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003, the Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley is the first deliverable under a larger compliance initiative from Microsoft. The accelerator, scheduled for March 2004 release, combines software components, templates and architectural guidance to help companies work with partners to create compliance solutions.

"Our customers want an effective, efficient approach to dealing with regulatory challenges such as those posed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and Microsoft is committed to meeting that need now and in the future," said Peter Rinearson, corporate vice president of the Information Worker New Markets Group at Microsoft. "Microsoft has always stood for low-cost approaches to making the power of software widely available. Companies don't want complicated, expensive solutions. They want smart, inexpensive approaches that can help solve multiple problems, including how to achieve greater corporate transparency. The Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley will help public companies of all sizes meet near-term needs – and lay a foundation for meeting long-term needs – using inexpensive software they may already have."

Companies face big tasks when it comes to complying with Sarbanes-Oxley Act requirements. Half or more are making do with homegrown solutions, while others have licensed first-generation tools from a variety of vendors, including three of the Big Four accounting firms.

"Many companies have been waiting for a cost-effective answer from a company with resources, vision and a long-term commitment to helping solve compliance challenges," said Arthur Stewart, president of Governance Automation Services Inc., who recently joined the Microsoft team after working for Ernst & Young LLP, where he evaluated dozens of Sarbanes-Oxley solutions from as many different vendors. "Companies have been waiting for something like the Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley. They'll find it was worth the wait."

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