Improving Audit Reviews: Slowing Down To Speed Up

Planning for successful audits

Success does not occur by accident, at least long term success that is.  The same can be said about smooth and efficient audit reviews. As much time is put into the step by step process of the overall audit engagement, if done right, each audit review should go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, ill coordinated steps throughout the engagement make many audit reviews anything but smooth.

“I’m too busy to “audit” firm audit processes.”

Audit engagements are time consuming endeavors compared to other firm jobs. They also tend to involve more firm staff working collectively on many moving parts within the audit job. Hence, there are ample opportunities for time to be wasted and errors to occur. Firm leaders may assume that audit steps are being conducted efficiently but making this assumption without deeper analysis is naive. What’s the solution? Firm leadership must perform an extensive “audit” of their audit processes to identify wasteful steps and actions.

Challenges to quality audit reviews

While conducting a sound review of your audit processes, it helps to know the most common challenges to most audit jobs, which in turn, hinder reviews.

Some of these challenges stem from:

  • Inadequate document management
  • Inability to work on audits remotely
  • Uncoordinated staff roles
  • No established best practices set

Who has the most current version?

Reviews can bog down when firm members doubt the integrity of a current workpaper version, or worse, cannot even access key documents at all.  Not only is valuable time lost, but staff morale may suffer as well.

Lost opportunities in the field

Client field visits create anxiousness for auditors on two fronts: uncertainty of client accessibility and inability to gather important documents. Plainly stated, the client governs the success of such visits to a large extent. With that said, it is completely unacceptable when a client does make every effort to provide their time, and the proper documents to an audit team, only to have said team unprepared to capitalize on the occasion.  Such instances where audit staff are not able to work cohesively or effectively on-site only erode confidence with the client.  Besides, business clients don’t have time to waste on second and third field visits, when one should have been enough.

Everyone reading from a different sheet of music

A larger problem that hinders audit teams from conducting quality reviews is often the lack of assigned roles for staff, and the absence of an established set of best audit practices. Surprisingly, many firms don’t take time to establish much needed ground rules/roles to insure smooth audits within their business.

For the firms that do successfully implement such rules and roles, they often neglect to fine tune them over time. This can lull firm leadership into a false sense of confidence in their audit processes, when in reality they may require attention.

Slow down to speed up

When it comes to addressing common review challenges, the good news is that each challenge can be dealt with successfully.  The not-so-good news, at least in the ears of most managers/partners, is that firm strategists must slow down long enough to make time for audit review planning meetings. Yes, overly ambitious team-members may resist such suggestions with, “We don’t have time for such meetings!” To the contrary, such meetings cannot be ignored if more profitable audits are the goal.

Steps forward

Ultimately, to improve your audit engagements and specifically your audit reviews, changes must take place. These changes will usually mean adopting new technologies to allow for staff collaboration (via cloud technology), or document management (via centralized digital engagement tools). Though the higher level changes will need to occur in the form of  a constituted set of best practices agreed upon by key firm employees. The key is to start the ball rolling with addressing these changes with the input of those intimately involved in the day to day audit work.

If you’re ready to take the first step toward improving your audit reviews, download our eBook “5 Ways to Improve Your Audit Reviews”.







Brandon Sims

All stories by: Brandon Sims