Technology in the Audit Department - What Are Force Multipliers?
There is a great deal of technological variation in terms of how audit departments function across organisations. Some companies are using the latest and even experimental techniques in AI and machine learning, while others are content with legacy systems from the ’90s. As long as a method works for you, it’s not really “wrong”. However, often even if the leadership wants to move towards a new standard or adopt a new tool, there can be resistance. Making IT work across audit functions requires a fair bit of planning, a healthy dose of leadership and a razor focus on what matters.
Laying the groundwork
The change must start at the top. The leadership must be convinced that the new software tools, processes or other changes are actually going to provide the needed benefits. Once that has been achieved, it can trickle down throughout the workforce. These changes can be a significant expense and a very large percentage of companies often end up not using the new tools at all or abandoning them too quickly because they were never really sold on them in the first place.
Technology just for technology’s sake never works. This first step is what will decide if the investment pays and off and the majority of decisions that go wrong, do so at this point itself.
This might prove to be an unpopular opinion, but sometimes the leadership will have to force through change and overcome whatever resistance they encounter. Making the use of technology mandatory might seem archaic but it can erode resistance and as people become more proficient with the new tools, it will invariably lead to improved efficiencies across the board. If that does not happen, then clearly some wrong decisions were made and which is why this article started with the “laying the groundwork” part. The foundations have to be right for it all to work.
The best tank or fighter plane in a nation’s arsenal is useless without the right training to operate it. Some companies make it a point to spend a certain fixed percentage of their total budget for a new tool/process on training! What this means is that rather than overspending on something that won’t be used properly, it might be better to split the cost across acquisition and training and use what was acquired at 100% efficiency.
Monitoring and Measuring
Improvement has to be a continuous, iterative process. The first step here is to set up measurable goals. This can be tricky in certain audit departments but results in Quality Assessment Reports can be one criterion for judging performance. Timelines, costs or workhours spent could be another criterion.
The best way to do this is to set these Key Performance Indicators at the time of setting up the new IT-driven process itself. Ask yourself why exactly is this new tool being acquired or developed? Is it to reduce costs? Then measure and monitor the costs. If it is to reduce errors or improve quality, then that has to be a part of what is measured and monitored.
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